I just don't fit the land of acceleration. You? Don't forget, you're an exile...
It’s becoming more difficult to “fit” here. I don’t mean socially. I don’t mean economically (though I am aware those are real!). Rather, the palpable awareness: “There is somewhere else I am meant to live; there’s a different kind of place I am designed for.” The news of natural disasters, friends suffering, the whole world married to a small screen, my age catching up with me… there is a burgeoning desire inside for the order and completeness of God’s Kingdom. The speed of change makes it swell all the more quickly.
To be sure, I don’t mean this in an altogether depressing way, but rather in the way Peter addresses the exile believers, “I urge you as aliens and strangers…”
He may be waving his hands to get their attention, “Remember, this is not your landing place.”
Haste characterizes us, and as a result, we are unaware that our bodies are waving to get our attention. Distracted, we miss the quiet hum of the Spirit, “Don’t forget, you aren't setting up your own kingdom here…”
I work with an awe-inspiring 18-year-old who is a true exile. After a near-death escape from Afghanistan, she was put on a plane, by herself, with no idea where she was going. After 27 hours of travel, she ended up in Chicago with no home. Roundabout after a year this precious soul was taken in by a Christian family in the greater Philadelphia area who set her up at the school where I work. I get to be with her, and thankfully, influenced by her, every week working one-on-one. Adjusting to a new country, learning a language, depending on so many people for basic help, getting a job, figuring out public transportation, going to school, and waiting for her family to join her, she doesn’t quite “fit.” At the same time, there is a joy within her so few of us natives exude. This is “home” for us. This is what we know. We are “comfortable.” Our lives slip into routine and thoughtlessness. We expect things to end up ok. How has her suffering resulted in joy? What a mystery. What a miracle. Her gratitude is aflame every time I interact with her.
I forget that I am an exile. If you are a follower of Jesus, you are too. It seems the times we are most aware of our homelessness are when we are in seasons of suffering. These are the days we moan, “I am ready for Jesus to come back,” and the desire is sincere. As Paul says so well in Romans 8,
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.
Abraham, as Hebrews described, “…was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” He did not stop living, he did not conclude that life on earth was pointless. Rather, he embraced the posture of a foreigner. In the same way, we await a Kingdom to come. While we are here, however, we make space for the kingdom to grow inside of us. We invite the Spirit to expand himself; “Take up more room,” we pray.
Theologian NT Wright reflects on 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 (worth reading), and describes the transformation that happens to those who are changed by Christ:
“…when people are in the presence of Christians, they should sense the presence of God. And it is part of the deal that at least half the time, Christians themselves are unaware that this is happening” (Reflecting the Glory, 1998).
When we make space, when we sit without DOING and instead allow the Spirit to wash over us in a shaping way as the ocean shapes the shells, we don’t even know He is misting out of us onto those around us.
“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. “
The accelerated speed of the trending train, the spinning swirl of the marketplace, the jeans that aren’t in, the shirt that’s now considered vintage, the music no one knows, the car that’s now a classic…the exchange of the old for the new gives me whiplash!
But quietly, on my couch, eyes closed, in silence…
”May your Kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven…”
I meant it.
And, “Lord, may it grow within me.”
The songs of American slaves focused on this same hope, for they were strangers in their own place. Their abuse and suffering turned to tears, yes, but also songs. Bound in chains, their cry for freedom was the freedom the Psalmists spoke of, the internal security of the soul.
Harriet Tubman led people to safety by way of her own songs…I close with her words.
We will one day, and may it be soon, “…reach the heavenly land…”
Hail, oh hail, ye happy spirits, Death no more shall make you fear, Grief nor sorrow, pain nor anguish, Shall no more distress you there.
Around Him are ten thousand angels, Always ready to obey command; They are always hovering round you, Till you reach the heavenly land.
Jesus, Jesus will go with you, He will lead you to his throne; He who died, has gone before you, Through the wine-press all alone.
He whose thunders shake creation, He who bids the planets roll; He who rides upon the tempest, And whose scepter sways the whole.
* The Lenten season begins on 2/22. Jesus didn't "fit" either. He longed for the Kingdom to come in fullness while he spread the good news wherever he went. But he felt that missing piece every day.
I invite you to join me for my Lenten Series: The Dark Before the Dawn click to sign up.