I don’t know about you but I’m not super great at listening. It turns out I need to hear things an average of 3.7 times in order for me to actually hear it. And when it comes to implementation of actual words being heard, I assure you the number is much higher than that.
I use to think I could read the bible and have it. Like, get it, know it, understand it. Because words are just words and I can comprehend words, I would store all of those little truth nuggets somewhere in that inside pocket of my backpack – the one that was protected from could-be thieves. If it was in that pocket, all zippered in, I assumed it was safe.
Turns out our hearts and minds aren’t like that pocket at all. Instead words go in and distractions come and these words that meant so much just vanish. Gone. Never to be recalled.
How is it that what we can deem so important in a moment can disappear so quickly?
I don’t have the answer but I do know this is why we need to keep coming back to scripture. Lest you think otherwise, we are no different than the Israelites who walked across parted waters one day and were grumbling just a few later. We are the same. Quick forgetters. Easily distracted. Unfocused. Not to mention a target of one who wants to steal all of the thoughts which we vow to take captive.
And so I’ve learned that scripture needs to be constant in my life. In making it so I’ve learned a great many things, not the least of which is the Holy Spirit illuminates for us the very things we need in certain seasons. Not always, of course. Sometimes we just come back to it for our dose of daily bread, our time of communion with the One who inspired every word. It’s not always fireworks and grand aha moments but it is always good. (Tell yourself that as you’re slogging through the Levitical laws!)
In this season of life where we’ve listened to the Lord and packed up our family and moved to a foreign land the Holy Spirit has been so gracious as to pad my days with a theme so I can not forget.
We sat around last night, the 5 of us, talking through our first weeks here. We let everyone whine a bit about what isn’t working, we brainstormed solutions on how we could make these better or help to smooth things out. We shared from our hearts about what’s been hard and what we miss about home. We never want our teenagers to think uprooting is easier for us than it is for them. We don’t want to plaster on our constantly smiley face and tell them this is what the Lord wanted and so it’s all rainbows and unicorns. Of course we believe it is what the Lord wanted and so it is good but that doesn’t mean ease.
Familiarity is what everyone is missing most. Knowing the neighbourhood and the streets and bumping into people we know in the grocery store. Being able to worship in a language we know and being surrounded by people who love us and want to lunch together after church. Understanding what the label on the meat says and knowing how it’s seasoned. Having a rhythm to life that means we know what to expect of a Tuesday evening or a Sunday afternoon. All of the things we just knew and operated in are now different and unfamiliar. They aren’t bad or worse. Just not our usual. And we will never tell our kids this should be simple or to suck it up cause it could be worse.
Transition is rarely easy for us human-folk. We tend to fight it with all we’ve got. We long for words like safe and stable and comfortable. We like familiar and easy. Order and routine. Or at least I do!
It’s not shocking to me that the Lord has given me a theme in this season. It’s come up in the words I hear, the scripture I’m reading, the podcasts I’m listening to and it’s resonating with every fibre of my being.
This world is not my home. We are not citizens of this earth. We are named as sojourners and exiles who are not to be conformed to the patterns of this world.
I have a new perspective as to what those words mean. It’s easy for me to say – oh yeah, I’m not a citizen here – when I live in the land of my birth and I speak the same language, watch the same tv shows, and can navigate 6 different routes to the same place because I truly don’t grasp what not being a citizen looks like. I’ve been a citizen of Canada my entire life. I’ve barely ventured outside of it for vacations. I couldn’t possibly have grasped the concept of not fitting in, not belonging, not conforming.
The Lord knew this in me and thankfully chose to pluck our family out of the familiar to teach us truths about Him and His word.
In just a few short weeks I understand so much more clearly that this world is not my home because right now I don’t know where home is. Someone asked me on the weekend where I was from and my answer was, “I don’t know!” I’m a Canadian living in Mexico but was currently in the United States. I have no idea where I’m from. But I have a grasp in a new way that it doesn’t matter where I’m from or where I am because my citizenship is not determined by what the cover of my passport says but by what God says.
I am a citizen of heaven. This world shouldn’t feel altogether familiar or altogether comfortable. I shouldn’t have a fear of leaving one place for another because it should all feel somewhat strange. We are not to fit in here. We are not to assimilate to such a degree that we aren’t longing for heaven because we quite like it right where we are with our expensive couches and espresso machines.
I’ve never felt like a sojourner before. The word is simple – it means a temporary stay. In our culture we talk about putting down roots and building community and these are good things but let’s never forget that our roots aren’t to be pulled down deep into this earth but are to be grounded deeply in our heavenly home. If we lose the focus that our grounding is in Christ, our roots sinking deep into the soil of His word and our eyes cast in the direction of our permanent home, we so easily make our time on this earth about us. What are my needs? What makes me feel comfortable? What can I acquire that will make me happy?
When we understand we are just stopping by here and our time is but a vanishing vapour, does it not give a sense of urgency as to why we’re here that we may not otherwise have if we feel like we’re pouring concrete in this land and building a home that is forever.
We are exiles here. Banished from our home for but a time. But our citizenship remains there. Our hearts are to dwell there. Our eyes are to be fixed there because it’s where our home will be forever!
Canada or Mexico or wherever we are – it doesn’t really matter. We’re sojourners just passing through eating a whole lot of chips and salsa along the way.