Jeremiah 29:10-14 NIV – 10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity [restore your fortunes]. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
I once heard a preacher tell a story about a woman who was about to marry for the 8th time – yes, the 8th time. And she came to him during an event to ask him to pray for her, that this time she would marry a man who would appreciate and respect her. Because she had managed to marry 7 men who did not treat her like the queen that she was. And he stood there, trying to find grace to wrap over the truth on the tip of his tongue. He missed grace entirely as he said plainly yet firmly “ma’am, have you considered that the only common factor in all of your relationships is YOU?” She did not appreciate his answer and the implication that she was the problem, so she stormed off, refusing to accept the truth God was trying to offer her.
And I’ve been thinking about this woman and her story as I ruminate over the jobs I have had over the last few years. It has been a bumpy road, as I have had 3 different jobs in the last 2 years. The first job I did not leave in my timing or planning, but it was definitely by the grace of God that that door closed. And just as the Israelites plundered the Egyptians when their exodus started, God too blessed me with provision at my exit from that world of judgment and condemnation. The second job I did leave by choice, because the toxic atmosphere just became life-draining in its escalating hostility. That season was short, but it showed me how much I had grown and matured as a result of the previous season (there were a lot of repeating temptations and trials).
So, as I tend to do, I began to think about these things in light of each other. I began to think about this woman, so discontent in her marriages yet so oblivious to her part in creating and sustaining the problem. And I have to wonder – have I become her? In my experiences, I am the common denominator. I am the only person in all the stories. The situations may be similar and the personalities eerily identical, but the names and environments changed … and I was the only thing the same in all situations. So, did I, without realizing it, become the problem I have been accused of being? Did I not adapt and change and bend as I thought I did? Was I so caught up in trying to survive in a hostile environment that I missed any red flags about myself?
And then this heart-mending truth popped up in my spirit – girl, take heart. God was working on you to work off a few more rough edges and help you move into a new season of maturity. Yes, you were the common denominator … but you were also the one who grew and blossomed and changed as you embraced My grace and enveloped yourself in My love. Those experiences were hard, and those words hurled at you were harsh … but they were a test to see if you would truly lean into Me, thereby willingly stepping into the change I wanted to work in you and do the hard work it required. I watched you struggle with the “truth” of the world and how it measured up to the real truth of My Word … and I smiled when you realized what was good and pure and right and planted it deep into your spirit.
I know it was hard. I know it felt soul crushing. I know there were moments of complete devastation.
But you made it. Multiple times.
You kept going.
You kept believing.
You kept trusting.
You realized that My promise in Isaiah 29:13 is always true – “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
And with every incident, every infraction, and every inconvenience, I watched you give Me another little piece of your heart as you trusted Me a little more with your life. And with each piece you gave Me, I ran it through My loving fingers and touched you with the extraordinary grace you needed to keep going with a little more hope, a little more love, and a little more determination. And as you accepted My grace, it was pure joy to Me to see you apply it liberally to your life and trust that I was with you every day … to walk through and thrive against every harsh word, every criticism, every hopeless moment, and every ungiven apology.
And I took every piece of your heart and cherished your growing faith and abiding hope. And I immediately began working to help you mend the torn, worn, and broken pieces into something new and beautiful that speaks of your strength and boasts of My glory.
And believing this to be the truth of my experiences, that God used them to help me instead of hinder me, I am grateful … because He loves me enough to want me to be better, do better, act better, and think better. He wants more for me than what I see, feel, and experience today.
So, looking back and talking through the experiences actually brings a smile to my face. Because I can see the pain and strain and drain were all for my good and my growth, and God is getting the glory as a result.
And yes, I was the common denominator – by God’s design, for God’s purposes. Because He has “plans to give you hope” for a better and brighter tomorrow.
What a great reminder that God does not want me to surrender my hope by submitting to the “captivity” of the ways and opinions of the world, which warp the mind, break the heart, and destroy the spirit. That God does not want me to give into the seduction of “Babylon”, which can only give empty promises and hopeless tomorrows. That God wants me to beware of self-destructive and self-righteous behavior that will “exile” me from His love and His grace.
So, thank goodness for being the common denominator, because it has helped me find such destructive things and deal with them … to honestly acknowledge where I have gone wrong, to humbly repent for following my feelings, and to hopefully embrace the grace to move forward. To see that though I may be in Babylon, I do not have to adapt to the wiles and ways of Babylon. To ultimately believe that what God says about me is more important than anything else I am told.
I pray I keep seeing the good, the grace, and the growth of my experiences. Because it is through them that “I [God] will be found by you.” That I will be more compelled to “seek Me [God] with all your heart.” That God “will bring you back from captivity.”
And I will open my hands, my heart, and my head to all the possibilities of God’s purposes … common denominator or not.
Marie Fremin. 5/15/20, 5/16/20.