I wrote about the otherness that we experience as we travel in Italy, but I didn’t talk about the most important lesson I have learned from this experience. I was thinking about it during our lay-over in Philadelphia. We got off the plane, went through the passport check point, got our bags, went through customs, re-checked our bags, went back through security and finally arrived in the busy concourse of the airport. Familiar sights, sounds and smells swirled together and made a kind of sensory blanket of comfort around us. My students were thrilled to find that one of those familiar smells led them to a Chick-fil-a. After all the stress of travel and the red-tape of customs, it is wonderful to relax. It feels so comfortable. Italy was great, but the U.S.A is better.
I was thinking about the comfort of coming home and I began to imagine the supreme comfort there will be in arriving someday in the city Jesus has been preparing. I wonder what it will like? It is strange because even though I have never seen that country, I know it will feel more like home than any earthly place I have ever been. I love the idea C.S. Lewis has about Aslan’s country being a more “real” version of Narnia. I like to just sit and think about it sometimes.
I used to worry about heaven not being as familiar as earth, about not being able to feel at home there. I used to secretly wish I could just stay here in the place where I am comfortable. This was true especially when I was younger. I think time and pain and struggle all work together to make heaven look attractive.
I should never be too comfortable here on earth. Even in my own earthly country there should be things that are “other.” The otherness of this world should lead me to long for my real country. The pain and the struggle, the evil and the sadness are not just my own. I watch the sufferings of others. I observe the poor choices people make and I see the trouble those choices cause not only for them but for the people around them. I make poor choices, too. I mess up and hurt the people I love the most. All of these things are “other” than they should be. The whole world is gone wrong. It is messed up by sin and that sin makes day-to-day life difficult and stressful. Going home will be a relief. It will be relaxing. It will be, well, heavenly. I’m glad the world is full of otherness. It makes me long for the next world, my home, the world that I was made for: “…a better country, a heavenly one.” (Hebrews 11) Bring it on!