“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ . . . “ Philippians 3:20
Many years ago, in what my husband and I refer to as the B.C. (Before Children) days, I worked as an assistant editor for a health and nutrition magazine. Toward the end of my time there, I got to travel around the world visiting some incredible places and meeting some fascinating people. Not gonna lie, it was a pretty sweet gig. One of my last trips before I quit the magazine to raise kiddos, was to explore Hawaii. I vividly remember walking through the nooks and crannies of paradise thinking, “Wow God! You outdid yourself on this one.” And it was gorgeous and felt so foreign and so familiar. But after a few days in paradise, my heart began to long for home. I have loved traveling since I was a little girl, but on this trip my heart couldn’t wait to get back to my husband and my friends and family. When those plane wheels touched down on the tarmac in Birmingham, I cried tears of joy and gratitude. It was then I realized the best thing about being away was coming home.
It’s been two decades since that trip and I still haven’t forgotten the longing, the ache I had to get back to the familiar, the comfortable, the place where I was safe and where I was known and loved. Not long after that trip, God gave us the treasure of children. We had four in six years, and as they’ve grown life has ebbed and flowed between the mountaintops and valleys. My husband and I have lost grandparents and beloved aunts and uncles. We’ve faced serious illness and hurt with friends and family who have faced tragedy and pain that we’ve wished with all our might we could take away. We’ve faced the darkness and sat in that cursed pit of despair more often than we’d care to admit.
But with each trial, with each suffering, with each lifting of the curtain of horrors that is life on earth, I’ve found myself growing more and more uncomfortable in this place. The more I experience in this place, no matter how beautiful, no matter how profound, it is tainted. It is merely a shadow of what is to come. And I find myself longing for home. It’s often hard to describe that glorious rapture of the promise of eternity. The promise of a permanent place, an eternal place, not marred by sin and shame and death and decay. I feel it when I see a fiery sunset or the wind blowing right before a storm.
This summer I read “Adorning the Dark” by Andrew Peterson. In the book he talked about being drawn to fantasy literature as a kid. As an adult he began to ponder why he was so drawn to stories about the Far Country and the Grey Havens. He realized it was because he was being drawn to the Greater Story of a place that was far beyond earthly shores. The place that is both foreign and familiar. A place where you are known and loved and safe. A place where the sharp edges of a world steeped in sin are replaced with the curves of a world showered in grace. Our hearts long for this place, even if we don’t quite know what it is we’re longing for. Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 3:11 “He has set eternity in the human heart.” It’s like a slow awakening to the reality that there has to be more than this place. And as C.S. Lewis said so aptly, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” And so we do, and so we are.
So when I find this world overwhelming and the tragedy and pain wrecking my heart, I remind myself of this truth.
I am a citizen of two countries.
One temporary, the other eternal.
One broken, the other beautiful.
One tragic, the other triumphant.
One full of sin, the other full of grace.
I was born in one country, but I am born again in the other.
Jesus himself has secured my citizenship in the Far Country.
Some days that longing for home is too much. Some days the groaning is too deep for words. I’m thankful for every day God gives me here in this temporary place to show others, to tell others, about the beauty that awaits them if they would just acknowledge their true state and the Savior who fulfills their every longing. I ask the King of that forever place to give me courage and boldness and strength while I have dual citizenship. But you better believe I’ll be rejoicing when my feet touch down on the tarmac of heaven. Faith made sight. Hallelujah!