Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Aliens, Alienation, and Alien Nation

We’re all safely gathered in the Miami airport awaiting a flight to Charlotte, N.C. en route to the Cayman Islands. Today is our last day as U.S. residents for the foreseeable future. We’re about to become “tweeners” – pilgrims located between two countries, living in one and citizens of another. My youngest daughter says, “We’re basically homeless!”

And we are almost homeless. Almost….

Our home is in another place – in neither the U.S. nor Cayman. The sun is rising over Miami and I’m longing for home this morning. We are aliens in a strange land. A land of shadows, misty silhouettes, forms and apparitions. This world presents itself as real but it’s not, not ultimately.

I’m happy to be an alien in this world. And when I can remember that an alien is just what I am, I seem to hold this misty, shadowy world more loosely. The transparency of this life becomes more evident. I’m able to see through as it were to the next world, at least to feel its draw and to understand this world as a mere foretaste of that to come.

I’m helped to realize that family and friends and the familiarity of the U.S. are not to be coveted when compared to the exceeding excellencies of Christ in glory. We’ve expressed some “see ya laters” and a few actual “goodbyes” to folks we don’t anticipate seeing again in this life. The goodbyes have been hard and I’m sure we’ll miss those family and friends that we hope to see in the future.

But for now, Philippians 2:5-11 feels right. It fits. I hope I’m more like Jesus through this process. He did not cling to His Father or equality with God, but humbled himself and took on the form of a man and bondservant. Humbled himself… even unto death. It’s not as though I’m giving up anything remotely comparable to what Jesus gave up to redeem His people. To the contrary, I count myself as one who is gaining an inestimable treasure and privilege. I’m being entrusted with the lives of people purchased with the blood of Christ and called to the great privilege and grace of proclaiming the gospel. “To live is gain.” But I do want to know something more of the emptying and the sacrificial, service-oriented mind of Christ demonstrated in His incarnation and crucifixion. And I want to participate in His glory, its promotion through the gospel, its display through suffering if the Lord wills, its pleasures in eternity.

I’m glad this world is not my home. I’m glad that we look forward to another home whose builder and maker is God.

Sitting here thinking about the “tweener” life we’re now living, I’m glad I’m an alien. I’m glad that through Jesus Christ I am no longer alienated from God but from this world, my flesh, and the devil. I’m glad I’m a part of that alien nation called “Christians” who sojourn here in the shadowlands looking for and awaiting the life and world that though spiritual is more rock-solid than anything I see, touch, feel, taste, or hear now.

I anticipate that once we get to Cayman, we’ll feel our strangeness in all kinds of ways. We’ll feel it when we hear the Jamaican patois and catch every fifth word or so. And then there’s Cricket! (Is it really a sport if you take a tea break in the middle?) Perhaps there will be more strange tastes to acquire (I’ve already acquired a taste for Caymanian turtle). But in all these things, I pray we continue to feel strange and alien because we manage to live an other-worldly, counter-cultural, anti-materialism, trinket-despising, true-paradise-seeking life.

4 comments:

Vikki said...

Praying for you and your family as you transition.

FellowElder said...

Thank you Vikki. I really appreciate that most tangible act of love, Christian prayer. Grace and peace to you,
Thabiti

Rod said...

You're passing through my city of Charlotte, NC a.k.a. "The Queen City." God bless you and your family in your work for the Kingdom.

LouLove said...

Don't forget Brother, you know you are going to be our international speaker? Don't get over there and forget the Bruthas in the U.S.