When I was 11, one phone call rocked my world. The caller was my dad; he told my mom of a possible move to an island. The island was Terceira, which is a part of the Azores archipelago, and it is about 2500 miles from New York and 900 miles from Lisbon. If the miles didn’t give it away, Terceira is in the “Mid-Atlantic” time zone.
I quickly and adamantly refused to go. Couldn’t they just leave me at Grandma’s? I also had absolutely no desire to leave my home country or even to visit a beach. Despite my pleading, and probably my tears, I found myself living on a tiny Portuguese island.
While it was an adventure, I became depressed. There is no place like home. I missed the United States. I missed being able to understand what people were saying at stores or restaurants. I missed my extended family. I missed my friends. I missed fast food. I missed American stores. I missed TV. I missed home.
Terceira was absolutely beautiful, but it was not home. Because of my homesickness, I did something that seems silly to me now: for about a year, I wore something red, white, and blue every day. Whether I wore a t-shirt with the US flag, a charm bracelet with a US flag, or painted my nails red, white, and blue. For a year, I wore the colors of my country’s flag every day. The colors reminded me of the place I belonged and the place I was going to return to.
Unlike me, you may have lived in the same state, town, or even the same house your whole life, but you are not where you belong. You are a foreigner. Just like Terceira was not where I belonged, we don’t belong here. This is not our home.
The Bible makes it clear that this world is not home. In John 17:16, Jesus says that we are not of this world. In 1 Peter 2, Peter exhorts the believers to follow Christ’s example and to abstain from sinful desires, and in verse 11 he calls them “aliens and strangers”. The author of Hebrews uses that same phrase about Abel, Enoch, and Abraham in Hebrews 11:13.
We’re just visitors on this earth, and one day we will get to go home, but until then, we can’t settle in and assume a resident’s mentality. Visitors knows that they will be returning home sooner or later, a resident is someone who lives somewhere permanently or on a long-term basis. Visitors may see beauty in the place they are visiting, they may enjoy being there, but deep down they know that there is no place like home.
Have we settled in here or are we anxiously awaiting the time we get to go home? Have we learned the language, adopted the values and customs, and tried to fit in or do we hold tightly to our alien status? Do we live with an eternal perspective that shapes our actions and decisions or are we too caught up in the here and now?