How to Thrive in Exile

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Those of us who have had a flight delayed know how airlines only tell us our departure is late in twenty minute increments. Then as we approach our new departure time, they tell us it’s twenty minutes more.

If you think our two-week quarantine is the magical time to get everything back to normal, then you aren’t seeing the bigger picture. The global social distancing efforts over the past few weeks have not slowed the rate of the COVID-19 infection enough, and now much of the world is on lock-down until mid April. What do you suppose will happen if the rate of infection is still overwhelming our country in May?

Just like the delay at the airport, the tension among passengers is beginning to rise. There’s a palpable counter pressure to keep the cure from being worse than the infection, and a growing perception that the ramifications of infection are preferable to those of quarantine. Economically, the entire world, which is pinned to the US economy, is in trouble. Economic collapse is equally as fatal. Wanting to get the world back to work is not just a money play, it’s compassion for the most vulnerable who will suffer most. We need the voice of truth and not the rhetoric of the media or politicians. It’s time to heed the still, small voice inside which beckons us to “come forth” and not hide in fear.

Like it or not, we are entering a form of exile. Exiles are easier for the most fearful among us who prefer to hide. This post is to help us get beyond the fear. We must face the facts that there will be no return to certain aspects of our life. We are not going back to the economy as it was. We needed a market shift or adjustment anyway, but COVID-19 is the scapegoat which has taken us further than desired and only the sober minded will ever notice.

Are you ready for an exile? Don’t fear it. Own it.

I started this blog over eight years ago to help liberate people from the many dominant institutions in life (Family, Peers, Sports, Arts, Education, Religion, Government) which all give us a Fake Id and distract us from unearthing our true self, or our soul found in our Maker.

One thing I’ve learned on this journey is that every exile follows a mixed bag of emotional experiences. Whether personal or corporate, here is the process:

  1. Waking up. First the pain or suffering of captivity finally grows enough to wake us up and pull us out of our comfortable dependency.
  2. Moving out. We contemplate leaving, or we get pushed out (that’s us now).
  3. Emotional Isolation. Once we leave our “homeland” we do so with fears and tears.
  4. Burgeoning Hope. Then comes the hope of a better tomorrow, but it’s accompanied by uncertainty and doubt. This is a stressful tension.
  5. Survival. If we don’t go back to “Egypt” (captivity), we enter survival mode and make our progress toward the new homeland.
  6. Decision time. As the journey lengthens before us, we become nostalgic and homesick for what we left. Many quit a this point because they seek comfort.
  7. Unfolding Future. We either create the New World or new version of the old one is forced upon us.

Today is no different.

I know we are scared, doubtful, worried, vulnerable. Now is the time to plan and soon it will be time to invest. If those who serve do not step up now, those who plunder will. The whole world is sitting still, but it won’t be for long. We can only step into the life we want if we have stepped away from the pseudonym given to us by the old world. Whether forced into desperation or merely discomfort, we all have the same choice: Will I be a maker and find ways to serve right now? Or will I be a taker and plunder and wait?

What world do you want to live in next year?

Thriving in exile is always about laying it down. It’s the wisdom of paradox. The old rules don’t apply. Down is the way up. Giving is how we receive. Open hands instead of clenched fists. People have been clamoring for a new world. A government or elected official cannot give it, but the people can possess it. We must remember that our life passion is not distinct from the available opportunities before us, our passion is precisely the “unrelated” opportunity at it’s entry point. You may have to pivot. If your dream business, charity or church goes under, remember, those dreams are re-birthed in emerging opportunities.

Want to change the world with your ideals? Then get to work in the system that lacks what you have. If your ideals have any merit, they can be tested once you earn the right to be heard. Once you can compete among the very best, then you can prove your ideals to be superior. Protesting, sidelining, complaining, resisting, undermining and waiting for someone or some government to give you a life, is a waste of time and proves your ideals are impotent. The world needs optimistic leadership and production, not pessimistic dependents, and both come from within us, not from our circumstances.

What are you made of? If you have character, now is your time. If you know you aren’t up for it, then take this time to find your soul.

Here’s my story.

My worldview used to be to cry “fowl.” I used to look down at the world with my arms folded because I was taught it consisted of sinful, evil, perverted, corrupted, debauched egomaniacs. I saw my ethos as more holy, more sacred and I believed God was on my team, so I refused to defile myself by working with such sinners in secular occupations. Didn’t they know God was going to destroy all their works anyway? Was it any wonder the city rejected our church?

“This man (Jesus) receives sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:2)

This passage of scripture does not comport with fundamentalism of any kind. I remember God eroding this prideful pietism in me. It would mean that all I had worked for, all the ground I had gained would crumble beneath me. As I began to be exiled, those who once gave me support, now condemned me. I felt alone. Hopeless.

I was humbled to the bottom, I found myself pumping portable toilets and that’s where I learned to serve from the heart. I exchanged my “holier than thou” ethos for that of the servant. I forfeited authority and influence. I embraced, even welcomed my exile. I was finally free. Raw. Vulnerable. Grateful.

“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:12)

As I learned to thrive in exile through serving and self-emptying, I’ve let go of the distinctions that hurtfully stood between me and the world. What God does for me, he does for all. We are all in this together. You don’t have to come from a religious fundamentalism to share this experience. Most people today feel entitled to more, it just means they are over-identified with their favorite institution. Any person can latch onto and become identified with a community, club, or tribe that thinks their way is better than everyone else’s. It’s time to give it up. There is no future in a tribal way of living. Let’s free ourselves from that part of the old world.

Our world is on the precipice of launching a “good infection.” Will it? Can it? Can you?

Will you embrace your exile? Don’t fight it. Lay down your pride. Forgive reality for being what it is. BE WITH WHAT IS. Don’t fear starting or re-starting at the bottom, just start…serving. Open your eyes, then open your door and open yourself to the very next opportunity that is placed before you. Jump in and serve. As you do, your life’s biggest passions will move into frame. Our biggest dreams and passions need not compete with our survival...they can fuel it.

We must shift our thinking from trying to “just get through all this” into using this as a springboard to a new life. Around us will be much suffering… enter it. We can open our hand and let go of our affiliations that have mistakenly defined us. We can exchange them for a humanity where love and humility defines us. If we do, we need not fear what is coming. The authentic and free person can meet each moment without fighting it, judging it or trying to change it. We’ll know we have reached this place when we spend no more calories on placing blame. We know we have begun when we have no tribe, only a shared humanity. There is only us, not them. Once we learn to be WITH what IS, we will finally be able to see beyond everything. From there the path forward is clearly displayed.

“For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:25)

2 thoughts on “How to Thrive in Exile

  1. Well done Kevin! I love
    We must shift our thinking from trying to “just get through all this” into using this as a springboard to a new life.
    The exile metaphor is the best one we have for these times but it is not without responsibility.
    I agree wholeheartedly with
    “Once we learn to be WITH what IS, we will finally be able to see beyond everything”.
    In other words, forget about the return because there is no return. There is only walking forward. Thanks for your very thoughtful post.

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