Traveling is delightful and terrifying! On a recent trip to Europe I was both charmed and challenged. I discovered that familiarity is a soothing comfort that can dull the heart and mind. The landscapes were beautiful and similar to my homeland, but the architecture was very different. The pastels and spires that splashed over the countryside were lovely, the cobblestone streets delightful. The cathedrals were central to each place, stunning with amazing artistic elegance and elaborate detail. Tour guides revealed their religious significance intertwined with the soul of the city and its political importance. Ruins dating back to the Roman era dwarfed my own country’s historical narrative. The tour guides spoke with obvious pride of their country, almost matter of fact about the ravages of conflict, war, and resistance. Priceless architecture was ruthlessly destroyed by conquering forces. Reconstruction is ongoing and expensive, some buildings never to return to their original artistic splendor either for lack of finances or artistic fervor. It is understandable that animosity prevails through generations with these stories as a backdrop.
The challenge came as I compared their experiences to my native history and architecture, less lofty for the most part, and untouched by the ravages of war. I felt so myopic and narrow in my thinking. I could not help but realize how one’s background subconsciously filters the perception of ‘normalcy’. We become comfortable with what we are accustomed to, perhaps accepting other ways of doing things but slow to embrace them. Our normal becomes the normal. This reminds me how mankind has become functional and comfortable in its broken temporary existence. The danger is failing to recognize that this temporality is not ‘normal’. We are all going to take a trip to another, a lasting dimension, and we need to get ready – to pack, learn to customs, the language, the landscape, make the exchange for the correct currency.
On my trip I found myself rushing to make a connection, loaded down with a huge pack of luggage. On an elevator yards away from a train that was ready to leave without me, I was baffled by which button to push to make the elevator go up and not down. The story had a good ending, but a knowledge of the norms would have alleviated some of the stress of the journey. A translator would have been invaluable. On the train I would strain my ears for familiar words so I did not miss my stop. Sometimes they even spoke in English! That was like a hug from home.
On our eternity journey we have been blessed with a translator and guide, One Who has been there. He knows the culture, knows the way, will teach us how to be ready – all just for the asking. You know of Whom I speak! Our job is to listen and learn. But we like to filter Jesus through our comfortable contemporary version of the Gospel. The gist is that by reciting the correct mantra we are assured a home in the distant future in some country we know little about. Meanwhile our lives can still float effortlessly on the current of culture, our values largely formed by the ‘normalcy’ of our environment. This model for trip preparation is not only ill conceived, but can prove destructive. Death is an unavoidable stop our eternal itinerary. Depending on our life-source it will either hit us like a train or like its shadow.
God’s kingdom is the cosmic, though not yet the localized normal. We have the privilege of walking heart to heart with its King, to learn Him, to bring His ways here to a suffering world. While we have yet to see all that He has promised, there is no more certain route to take than to live In His presence, to experience His forgiveness, and to radiate His grace. This world’s beauty which delights our soul is but the twilight of the true, the negative of a picture yet to be developed.
Trust the truth of the person of Jesus as well as His teachings. Kneel at HIs cross and allow His blood to cleanse your heart from your sin. Rise up and follow the resurrected Christ Who will fill your soul with peace. There is your passport. Be His disciple to have your visa stamped with heavenly recognition. When the train comes you will be at the gate, smiling in anticipation of your destination, Jesus welcoming you home with arms wide open and unspeakable joy.
“This life we leave, it’s only skin and bone, don’t make yourself at home” Remedy Drive – Rip Open the Skies