When we are in exile we live in a strange land that is not of our choosing. Life is hard, often barren and we schlep through the day as slaves not as free people. God’s people lived as exiles, unable to sing the Lord’s song in strange land. God understands exile.
It is possible to be in exile within your marriage. Busyness builds slowly and stealthily. You work late and slip into bed, trying not to wake your beloved. Meals are eaten quickly and we swap the intimate connection of early marriage for the bogus connection of social media and trivia. Some exiles are unavoidable: a stay in hospital, a season helping a parent or child. We must then beware of drifting and cultivate the homing device of the heart that turns us towards our spouse. If we don’t then heart-mates become house mates. Romance dies and we cease to sing the Lord’s song, the song of love for Him and of love for our spouse. No one starts married life wanting to live in the twilight world of parallel lives but all too often it happens and an affair is just one step away.
The prophet Jeremiah wrote to the Exiles, the people of God in Babylon. He told them how God had plans for them, to prosper them and to give them hope. (Jeremiah 29:11). Many in exile had found a way to make it work, to become comfortable and live good lives. God, however, had other idea for his people in Babylon and has other ideas for those living in exile marriages. “I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.”
The best and surest way out is to call to the Lord God for help. In Psalm 91 we learn that He will “save us from the Fowler’s snare” (verse 3). God also promises that if we call on Him He will answer, be with us and deliver us” (verse 15).
So now you expect me to say that you should call God, He delivers you and you all live happily ever after. Not so fast, there’s some groundwork to do first.
Not everyone in exile wants to leave. It was true in Jeremiah’s time and it is true today. Some people can carve out a very acceptable life in exile. All too often we see one person who wants to act and retrieve their marriage and yet their spouse doesn’t have the same urgency or desire to change. So step one: you both need to turn and want to change.
There is always a reason that a couple live in exile. When I think of exile I picture two people living very different lives, at opposite ends of the same space. You need to find the reason that caused you to face away from each other and seek fulfilment elsewhere.
Some connections have to go.
Some hobbies have to go.
Whatever holds us to the exile life has to go.
The condition of rescue that God declares to Jeremiah is (v15) “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart.”
So if two people chose to run and seek God and each other with all of their heart they will escape exile. This change of heart may not be instant. Sometimes you need specialist help to overcome an addiction. It may take a while to untangle commitments that worked in exile but now prevent you from reconnecting with your spouse.
Once we choose to turn then we need to call, to petition God and to make the request with energy and air in our lungs. It’s a call not a whisper. God promises to meet us, rescue us and journey with us. Marriage is a wonderful journey and when we walk out of exile we will still face challenges, the difference is that now we are not alone. Emmanuel, God is with us and His restoration work is perfect. We can find that first love again. Maybe you and your spouse should start a conversation?
So for those who are not trapped, who are still in love and are connected to God and each other: protect your marriage but see if you can find time and space to help another couple.