Settlers: Learning Grace & Authority in Seasons of Stillness
Words by Jennifer Lockemeyer // Image by Dianne Jago
For so many years, busyness and over-commitment were the lifeblood of my walk with God. I felt like I wasn’t growing if I wasn’t moving. I grew up frequently changing schools and moving to new cities in college. Change was a norm in my life, and I took pride in transitioning with grace. I used to think of the word “settle” as a negative thing—conceding, compromising, self-effacing. But when I peeled back the meaning, I learned that it indicates authority and peace of mind.
About a year ago, I read Ezekiel, drawn by the emblematic imagery of dry bones coming to life. As I read, I realized that Ezekiel was called first into a season of stillness before he received this iconic vision. Ezekiel was one of the Israelite refugees of the Babylonian empire. When the Lord appeared to him in a vision, he was living in exile. The Lord commanded him to remain lying on his side for 430 days—a day for each year Israel and Judah sinned—as an allegory for the way they would endure exile and siege (Ezekiel 4:4–5). On a deeper level, this act conveyed how Christ would lie down as a scapegoat in our place and offer himself as the ultimate sacrifice.
The Lord was revealing a plan to redeem Israel, but it may not have been apparent to them at the time. I wonder what Ezekiel was thinking as he lay there, waiting. Was he thinking, What does this accomplish? Why can’t I do something? He was a prophet—he must have wondered when the Lord would tell him to rise up and make God’s power evident. Yet, before the Lord gave him the words of judgment, punishment, and reconciliation, he first made Ezekiel be still. The Lord used Ezekiel as a mouthpiece to express the truth that Israel and Judah would fall under the weight of oppression and siege because they had forfeited their trust in him. They had hardened their hearts to him in their time of exile and turned to idols.
It’s easy to harden our hearts when we’re called to settle down if we believe we are compromising. When we become resentful of the call to wait on the Lord, we are prone to turn to idols. When I realized that settling down meant pursuing a vocation and lifestyle in Houston—the city I grew up in—I could feel myself becoming callous. I booked my calendar solid in an effort to forge my own pathway.
Even in the midst of his people’s rebellion, the Lord promised redemption. He said, “I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26). He makes the same promise to us to help us embrace surrender.
Even as the Lord said through Ezekiel that Israel would reap the consequences of infidelity, he promised deliverance in the end. They could endure their exile with hope because the Lord is a good Father. They could choose to cultivate faith through their forbearance. Although their covenant had become dry and brittle like bones, the Lord promised to send his spirit to breathe life over those bones and revive them (Ezekiel 37). It’s a beautiful echo of Genesis 2 when the Lord breathed life into the dust to create mankind. It also foreshadows the poignant moment when Jesus breathed on his disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). He promised his people through Ezekiel that he would re-create them by sending his Spirit and a new David—Jesus (Ezekiel 37). This is the Spirit and Word we have been given!
What does this mean for us? When the Lord created mankind, he charged us to take dominion of the earth (Genesis 1). He mandated us to steward, cultivate, and sustain his creation. He asked us to take responsibility in a way that both fulfills our desire to create as our Maker creates and also benefits our world. Think about the early settlers in the American West. When they settled their land, they were leaving behind the cadences of security and comfort and stepping into the unknown. When they settled, it indicated an intentional choice to re-order their lifestyle to benefit the development of society. It required faith and self-determination. This is a far cry from compromise.
Some of us are learning to settle down. We’re in a season of waiting for the things we’ve planted to bear fruit. Remember that the Lord has breathed his Spirit into your heart and that he sustains you with his living water (Romans 5:5; John 7:38). With this mindset, callouses melt away and bitterness is replaced with refreshment. When the Lord spoke his vision over Israel in the midst of their exile, he gave them the image of a river flowing down from the restored temple to turn the Dead Sea into fresh water, creating lush garden city (Ezekiel 47–48). The image harkens a restoration of Eden or the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey. He gave this visionary garden a name: “The Lord is there.” This is a picture of what has been accomplished through Christ: we are living temples and the living water of God’s Spirit redeems our world.
The Lord sometimes calls you to be still. It may be change in lifestyle or it may be a season of waiting. He may be restoring your energy, or he may be equipping you to accomplish something for the Kingdom. Throughout all of this, his presence is a continual promise. It’s whispered to you throughout Scripture, and he is still speaking it over you each day, each moment. “He quiets you with his love” (Zeph. 3:17).
If you find yourself becoming resentful of your season of stillness, call those thoughts into submission to Christ. Remember that the Lord is inviting you to cultivate the land you’ve been given. He’s given you dominion—your realm of influence, your capabilities—as well as the Spirit, who is your advocate (John 15:26). And the Lord is there with you in the land in which he calls you to settle.