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. Hebrews 11, verses 13-14.
I’m a wanderer. I learned it as a kid. We first moved in 1969, when I was three, moving from Bloomington to Minneapolis, Minnesota. That isn’t very far, but it’s a quantum leap for a family from the suburbs. I went two years to an old elementary school before they tore it down in 1974. That year, I spent a year in private school in east Minneapolis. 1975-1976 saw me attend two different third grade classes, one in Iowa and the other in Pennsylvania. From 1976 to 1978 we lived in Pennsylvania, 1978-1980 in Oklahoma, 1980-1983 back in Iowa, and 1983-1985 in southern Indiana, which I refer to now as ‘home.’ After that, I joined the Air Force, and spent 1985 in Texas, then 1986-1989 in Texas, Maryland, and TDY (on temporary duty) around the world. From 1989 to 1992, I lived in Italy (living in two different towns during that stay). From 1992 until 2004, I lived in Colorado, residing in six different places in twelve years. 2004-2005 found me in Montana, then 2005 back in Colorado before moving to Texas. Since 2005, I have lived full time in Texas, but have traveled all over the country (and the planet), and have lived in three different houses in two towns. After fifty years of wandering, I’m finally in a home I’ve always dreamed of. Wouldn’t you know that even my time here may be short, in jeopardy, and that there could be more wandering just up ahead.
Sometimes I feel like I’m looking for a country of my own.
I wish I could say that my story is one of deep public faith, but it isn’t. In fact, more times than I care to admit, my faith has wandered too and has been weak with my practice of it weaker. I’ve been rightfully accused of being a hypocrite, and Billy Joel could have once described me as “a man with so much tension and far too many sins to mention.” I’ve tried, but in following Jesus, trying isn’t enough. You have to “do” to be believeable to other people, and sometimes what I’ve done has been quite opposite of what I believe.
You know what? I’m in good company. Abraham was a wanderer and God did wonderful things through Him. Jacob was a deceitful wanderer and God led him to live an amazing life. Moses, David, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, and finally Jesus Himself were all wanderers who did incredible, great things in the lead-up to the time of their Messiah. After Jesus, all twelve of His disciples wandered, going from place to place to spread the Good News of the friend-Savior they knew. Some of them were murdered for it; only one lived into old age.
I bet all those people were looking for a country of their own. I wonder, then, if the country mentioned by the writer of Hebrews isn’t actually the nation of Heaven. Shakespeare called death “the undiscovered country.” Hamlet lamented that his life was all sorrow and he longed to journey into the undiscovered country of what lay beyond. Don’t we all, yet here and now are all we know. This is where we make our bones, discover what it means to live. And the longer any of us live – and wander – the more we find that the only real meaning in the fallen world is found in Jesus Christ. In Christ there is no more wandering. In Christ, the discovery is amazement and it is continuous. In Jesus Christ there is fulfillment of all of life’s desires, answers to every question, and peace to settle all restlessness. In Christ, we no longer need to wander.
Christ is the undiscovered country I wish to explore, yet isn’t it wonderful to be able to do so now, as best we can, in this place that’s rife with both life and imperfection? Until my prayers are answered and I meet Him face to face, I guess I’ll continue to wander, awaiting my endless time in the country of my own that I know in hope is only a short time away.
For further reading: Matthew 13:17, Genesis 23:4, Leviticus 25:23, Philippians 3:20, 1 Peter 1:17.
My Lord and Savior, abide with me as I wander here.