I remember speaking to a lady from Indonesia who was excited to hear that I’d been born in Jakarta. She immediately launched into the native tongue, expecting me to respond in kind. Embarrassed, I had to let her know that I was only there briefly after birth and had no knowledge of the language. She gave me a disappointed look and made a comment about people throwing off their heritage.
Having been born in Jakarta, most people are quick to assume that I’m a citizen of Indonesia. However, because my parents were diplomats at the time, I maintained my Nigerian citizenship. As stated in the popular Avalon song, I was born in Indonesia, but not of it.
Likewise, the Bible refers to believers as strangers and pilgrims on the earth. In other words, the extent of our time here is really just a ‘passing through’ till we get to our final destination. This is why Jesus urged His followers to store up treasures in heaven, rather than on earth (Matthew 6, Luke 12), comparing those who focus on this present reality to fools who are not rich towards God (Luke 12).
But this present reality is all too real, we might argue. There are bills to pay, obligations to be met and all kinds of challenges to be overcome. Is it possible or even wise to just ignore all this? After all, there is a saying that one can be so heavenly minded they are of no earthly good. Is that really what Jesus wants of us?
I don’t think so. Jesus was very present on earth while here – He trained as a carpenter, and took his responsibility to care for Mary seriously. He made friends and attended weddings. But in all that, He never lost sight of His ultimate purpose and goal. From a young age, He focused on the scriptures, spent time in prayer and prepared Himself for ministry to the lost. Not allowing Himself to get sucked into the mindset of this being all that there is, Jesus was able to effectively maintain His eternal perspective. Anyone who knew Jesus would agree that there was something different about Him. It was evident in the way He related with everyone around, and the priority He placed on the spirit rather than the letter of the law.
So what does that mean for us? It means a shift in how we view this life. When we go on a trip, say for work, we focus on the task at hand and all that needs to be accomplished. However, we never lose sight of the fact that home awaits us. In fact, this very thought often prompts us to ensure that we accomplish all that needs to be done on the trip as efficiently as possible, so as not to delay or jeopardize our trip home.
In the same manner, we will need a mind transformation to see ourselves merely as strangers and pilgrims on the earth. We must strive to accomplish the purpose for which we’ve been created while here, but all the time, we’re just passing through to our final destination – eternity with our Father.
Father, give us the grace to depart from our routine of focusing on and magnifying life’s daily demands and challenges (like Martha), and instead purposefully take time out to sit at Your feet in order to hear what You’re saying, and where You’re leading (like Mary).