“I am a stranger on the Earth; Do not hide Your commandments from me.” Psalm 119:19
A few weeks ago I handed the teller a thick wad of singles and random denominations of money.
“I’d like to deposit these into my checking account please.”
He smiled that wry knowing smile of someone who believes themselves Sherlock Holmes for guessing the most obvious facets of life, “you must be a waitress. Where do you work?”
I could see the observation impress himself as it rolled off his tongue.
Apathetic to the strangeness of my companies name, I answered swiftly.
That familiar expression of too much knowledge and too little context began to roll across his face.
It was then that I knew, much like Sherlock Holmes, what he was thinking, so I begin to sputter out a defense, “No, its a French macaron store.”
It’s not rare that when I tell people I work at a place known as Lady Yum and I’m carrying a stack of cash I find myself notifying them that I am not a stripper.
In fact, it’s somewhat reasonable when any espresso stand with a sultry title could be a place of ill repute.
It is moments such as these that I am reminded where I am. And that I am a stranger.
I no longer live in a small town where the most basic starting assumption is that I am a Christian. No longer am I overseas as the caucasian conversation piece, unable to remotely hide the fact, I am different. Some places, being a stranger makes you instantly known. In fact people always ask why I am in that particular country due to my winning complexion and I can respond immediately by notifying them of who I am.
I tell them I am a Christian. A Missionary. A zealous believer. Oh, and an American. I guess that’s what they want to know the most.
Here, people not only know nothing about me, they rarely know anything about Jesus. When you bring Him up, and it’s not in the context of cursing, it leads to really awkward stares and a change of subject. It isn’t a stretch to say He is far more offensive and divisive here than any number of colorful vocabulary words. Those in Seattle are slower to build trust, and faster to reject truth. Being a Christian isn’t popular. Seeing the world as anything other than muddled grey is offensive. I am entitled to what I believe, as long as it isn’t a strongly held belief and in no way excludes people based on race, gender, weight, nationality, worldview, morality, height, or religion except for Christians. They are ok to exclude here. And Trump supporters. People don’t like Trump.
I wish I had counted the number of people who have gotten genuinely offended when I asked them if they wanted a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Easter” sticker for the Macaron box they are buying. All levels of ridiculous offense exist in this place.
If the south is the Bible Belt. The Pacific Northwest is Satan’s Long Johns.
I am coming to realize something about myself. For so long I have placed immense weight upon the identity of being the Christian girl. I had a solid group of Christian friends that supported me and sharpened me (I still do, they just live 3,000 miles away.) Many days have been hard because my very identity is a source of conflict. It is a stumbling block to many people. A conversation piece drenched in absurdity.
In fact these days I identify more with an Invisible Girl, standing behind a counter full of cookies where my longest interaction with a person is in five minute intervals as they long for a sugar fix instead of authentic community.
This is a challenging and interesting moment in life. People think it strange to be married or at best nod and say, “You do you!” Asking for work off on a Sunday because you love God is seen as needlessly aggressive, and yet asking for Friday night off to sip local IPA’s and go to an indie concert results in “High five Bruh!”
Perhaps that is what should be expected.
I am reminded these days that this isn’t home.
I would be foolish to expect it to be. The narrative of the bible is a people with a purpose looking for a place. The Israelites wandered for FOUR DECADES! If you just finished your journey today to the Promised Land, you would have started with great miraculous intervention around 1976.
We have been here since November. We have been looking forward to the promised land of Taiwan for just a little less than a year.
I can hardly relate to a forty year journey to find a home. Constant packing, unpacking, gathering, resting once a week. Sand, buckets of sand. And then you have disasters. You have bouts of idol worship, Moses going up on a mountain while everyone just sort of sits around anxiously thinking, “I mean he was like 90 years old. He probably died up there. We should probably build a statue. That worked for the Egyptians for a thousand years.”
Yet I can relate more than I would even realize.
The truth is we are not supposed to be comfortable, living out kind polite lives in secret. We are sojourners in a war. Once Heaven’s refugees, Christ came and conquered and now we are citizens of Heaven, Ambassadors in a foreign land.
Even the stability of a modern life in America has some level of unease. Job security, health, finances, prosperity, success. Ask people Rich or Poor and they most likely have the same feelings. The same uneasiness about death. The same fear that they could lose everything. The same foundation of sand that feels firm somedays and constantly shifting other days.
Moving here took home and removed it. It took my purpose and redistributed it. And now it seeks to take my identity, who I am, and steal that too. It is a constant fight, and you have to fight, to remain clear in conviction and purpose in this world.
We are not citizens of Earth.
“I am a stranger on the Earth; Do not hide Your commandments from me.”
The writer of that big Psalm that is probably extremely poetic in Hebrew and yet to many feels repetitive in English, was trying to get one thing into our thick attention absorbing skulls.
We are not of this Earth, and we desperately need to hold firm to the culture of heaven. Not Florida, or Taiwan, or any other place on Earth.
We need to hold fast to the Promised Land. To a place where tears are a thing of the past and everlasting joy is the normative state.
Our soul knows it. It weeps and longs and aches. Creation groans and aches. The very world desires for the fulfillment of something beyond what we know. We are shadows dimly lit longing for form, shape, and color.
That can be crushing. It can be traumatic. But two types of people existed in the Exodus. Same experience of wandering the desert. Different perspective.
Those who grumbled and complained. The bread of heaven and presence of God dwelt among them and they found themselves filled with anger. No peace. No hope.
Yet the generation of Children raised up during that time, the generation that never knew the leeks and onions of Egypt. A Generation that knew only two food groups, Quail and Manna. Who ate bread for more than a decade, and never felt the glorious freedom of rescue from oppression that the parents did. A generation longing for a home and yet never truly knowing one.
They made it to the Promised Land. They entered in and found rest.
And they celebrated. Year after year for hundreds of years they looked back on the Exodus, they never experienced the Passover but knew what lay before them was far greater than any Egypt that lay behind them.
I can relate to that. I can relate to longing for a home I have yet to even see. And yet, we come not as refugees of Egypt. We come triumphant, bringing the gifts of Heaven to those who have never tasted true joy. True peace. True hope. We get to tell people about a place that is so beautiful we will weep with happiness to find our place there. We get to have a purpose that transcends Macaroons and makes immutable echoes in infinity.
So these days, I am often reminded not by the sheer amount of heaven on Earth, but by the lack of it, that I come from a place not of this world. There is a Promised Land, it is my home, and while I may struggle somedays knowing where I live is tough and doesn’t really look like heaven, I know the Promised Land will come and it will be BEAUTIFUL. These temporary trials and tribulations mean nothing light of the glorious grace and abundance He has prepared for us!
And I am so blessed.
So blessed that I get to spend my life telling people about my home in the Promised Land that I am yearning to see someday.
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Photos courtesy of Dale Nolan Jr. at wordsilived.blogspot.com, Visit his blog and check out his work!