At church on Sunday the pastor told of a man who, when asked where he was from, replied "I'm from Paradise". I've been thinking about that all week. As a follower of Christ, I know in my mind that I'm a citizen of a heavenly kingdom and that this world is not my home. It's so easy to forget and live like this is all there is. I've spent many months of my life traveling with not much more than what could fit in my backpack. At those times I remember thinking of all the things I had at home and how I really could live without them. But inevitably, when I get home and start settling down, my "stuff" becomes more and more important, to the point where it's easy to fix my mind and heart on having more and more of the comforts that this life offers. Psalm 84:5 says "Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, Whose heart is set on pilgrimage." Another version says "in whose hearts are the highway to Zion". We are called to be pilgrims and strangers in this world, our hearts fixed on heaven.
While passing through the airport in Dhaka, Bangladesh several years ago, I saw a group of Muslim men going on a pilgrimage to Mecca. There was something powerful about their presence. Each man was dressed in white robes and their voices rose in united prayer and song. They exuded a feeling of excitement and expectancy: this was a culmination of years of longing, saving, and planning, as many were already old men. They were singular in their focus, united in their goal of reaching Mecca and fulfilling one of the requirements of Islam. I will never forget the impression that seeing those men made on me.
When people look at us as followers of Jesus of Nazareth do they see a people who are traveling or one who is content to stick around here and be as comfortable as possible? When I'm camping, or traveling, it's easy to forgo many of the things that I might like to have, because I know it's only for a while. I'm afraid that I too easily lose the focus that life as we know it is just temporary and my real, eternal home is in heaven. How easy it is to store up treasures here and forget that my heart is to be set on pilgrimage. The dictionary offers a couple definitions of a pilgrim:
1. A religious devotee who journeys to a shrine or sacred place.
2. One who embarks on a quest for something conceived of as sacred.
3. A traveler.
As a Christian, want all of those to characterize my life. I'm journeying to a sacred place, to the very heart of God, and someday to eternal joy in His presence. He has put me here on this earth to glorify Him and to learn to love Him. He has given me many things to enjoy and to use here, but I must remember that I'm only here for a while. I'm a foreigner, just passing through, and someday I will go home. Abraham was called out of Ur, and in Hebrews 9:10-11 we are told "By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God." He lived in the land that God gave him, yet as in a foreign land. I need to remember that I'm just a traveler here, a camper, and there are many things I can do without, because it's only for a while. My prayer is that I will dwell in this land in the same way Abraham did, looking forward with excitement and longing to my true home and what awaits me there.
This is a repost from 2006, shortly after I started blogging. I thought it was appropriate to share it again as we prepare to pull up stakes and embark on our own pilgrimage of sorts. Our home, where we've dwelt for the last six years, will soon be on the market, and we wait with excitement to see how and when we'll be able to leave.