David Anderson of the Free Press asked me a few weeks ago why I attended a meeting that the Golden Leaf Foundation hosted for Lenoir County. My response was “I am seeking the prosperity and welfare of the city of Kinston” and I wanted to be a part of anything focused in that direction. I reminded him that this statement came from the prophet Jeremiah in a letter to the Jewish exiles in Babylon which says “seek the welfare of the city … and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your own” (Jeremiah 29:7). For me the God’s word says that when we seek the greater common good, even when we live among our enemies, then we will find our personal welfare and prosperity. For too long many of us have reversed the logic of God’s economy and sought personal prosperity before seeking the common good.
David fact-checked my quote and called me back to say I had left out part of the verse, the part that describes “being sent into exile.” The follow-up question was easy enough: “do you feel like you were sent into exile?” with the implication that maybe Kinston was a step back from other cities. My immediate response was, “I am not in exile! However many of the folks I run into often sound like they are in exile.” Many Kinstonians either wistfully remember the Kinston that is “no longer” or passionately long for the Kinston that is “not yet.” When you live in either the “no longer” or the “not yet” you live in exile from the “here and now.”
Jeremiah’s letter is explicit about here and now living. He wrote: “build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters … multiply there and do not decrease” (Jeremiah 29:5-6). The Lord is not saying we can’t dream about another place or time, but you can only live in the here and now. Essentially Jeremiah was saying “bloom where you are planted.” So I invite you to join those seeking Kinston’s greater welfare and prosperity starting with the street you live on. Let’s bloom where we are planted.