Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior
from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Driving home in the dark in a dirty car, windows down, I watch the people. I hear them. See them. Only able to pick out phrases. Words. Not full conversations. Snippets. Pieces.
Three women stand near a light that's mounted on the wooden roof of a lotto stand. The three of them laugh. Something is funny. Their faces are animated. Strong. Beautiful. Their eyes wide with laughter. What fun.
I stare at them and wonder. Would I ever be allowed to stand with you? Could it ever be natural? Would I get your jokes? Would I know when to laugh? Would I understand why what you just said was hilarious? Could we ever be...you know...can I say it....friends?
Or will my white skin and my US passport always cause you to act a little strange around me? Like reality TV. The people on the television try to act natural, but there is always this awareness that the camera is on. The red light is flashing. Which means there is no such thing as reality TV, is there? No one ever acts the same way when others are watching as they would minus the cameras. And so I yearn. I hurt. Knowing there is a very real chance we could live here in this country and our white, American skin be like that mounted, motion-sensor camera making nothing normal and everything not quite right between us.
I can't stand the thought of always being an outsider. I close my eyes. I think of home. America. My friends. Family. Riding with the windows up. My car that had air conditioning. Smooth streets. Eavesdropping on conversations at restaurants. The place I understood.
I am a foreigner. Every day. It's obvious. I am not from here. This is not my home. I'm reminded of that fact every time I walk out of the door. "Blan, blan." They call out at me. "White, white." That is my name in Haiti. White. There is no blending in for me here. My white skin is sort of like a giant, illuminated, flashing arrow...a sign, pointing straight at me that says, "She is an outsider. She doesn't get it."
And while that grieves me, because I truly do want to understand this culture better, I am...perhaps for the first time in my life...aware of that tension that should probably exist in the souls of God's children whose citizenship is in heaven while their bodies are clumsily walking this earth.
Every scene my eyes behold in this country is viewed through the lens of my culture. I see things like health care, infrastructure, and relationships with American eyes. I can hardly help it. My response is immediate. The United States is what I know. It's my only frame of reference. My first language. Everything new about this culture is constantly being filtered through my American upbringing. Part of my frustration is looking at the problems here and immediately wanting Haiti to be like America. Not because America is perfect. I know better. But selfishly, it's simply all I know.
Every day. I'm not making this up. There is probably at least one time. One instance. One moment when I miss what I know. So much so that it hurts. I miss my culture. I feel that dip in the depths of my chest. The drop. The longing for the place I once knew and understood.
Until living in Haiti, I rarely really thought of heaven. I felt so at home where I was, it was hard to imagine a different home. I did not feel like a foreigner or a stranger. I would go long stretches without thinking of the kingdom that was coming. The place I will live forever was something I rarely thought about.
I am a citizen of heaven. I have all the rights and privileges of God's Kingdom. What a lofty thought. Yet I know very little of this Kingdom that holds my citizenship, even though God has been so very kind and talked a great deal about what this Kingdom is like.
I read something interesting recently. In Hebrews. You probably know it. The passages that list the people in the Bible who made it to the Faith Hall of Fame?
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
In their homesickness it seems like the fathers of my faith quit moaning and groaning about the place from which they had come and instead longed for the place that they were going. They let that desire for the place they knew...the place they loved and understood...turn their hearts towards heaven.
I think I may always feel out of whack here. Like I don't belong. Maybe being a foreigner is a gracious gift God will use to train my heart to hurt for heaven. What if I longed for the comforts of heaven like I do the comforts of the United States? The things I think are stupid and ridiculous in this third world country immediately cause my mind to hurt for home. When I see injustice, poverty, relationships falling apart, and my own depravity, it would be so beautiful if those tragedies would make my heart sick with longing for a better country...a heavenly one. Looking at tragedy and longing for America is probably ridiculous. Looking at tragedy and longing for heaven is exactly what Jesus said to do. "Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."
I want to know that Kingdom well enough that in those moments when I can't take the sadness or the reality around me, I can close my eyes and imagine I'm back home. Heaven. The streets of gold. Justice reigns. Family. Friends. Where the last are first. The first are last. All things are restored. Death and sin defeated. The place worth selling everything I own in order to be there. Where we'll delight in God forever. Home. sweet. home.
Maybe that's why, when Jesus was here...a foreigner on this earth...He kept saying, "The Kingdom of heaven is like....."
The Kingdom. Jesus couldn't stop talking about it.
Maybe He was homesick. Maybe He wanted us to be as well.