I marvel at how often I have benefited from the kindness of strangers while traveling in a foreign country. Sometimes that was a cashier helping me sort out the correct sum from a bewildering handful of change or some stranger offering to guide me to my destination on the Metro saying, “Oh, I am going that same direction,” something I highly doubt was true.
Searching for my gate at O’Hare Airport, I noticed the couple in front of me was obviously bewildered. How many times, in a foreign place, have I felt that same way? All the logic, ingrained since childhood, suddenly doesn’t apply, the signs don’t make sense and you feel as though you’re on sensory overload. I did what others have done for me countless times. “Can I help you?” I said and instantly became their angel in a time of need.
In our own moments of helpless dependence, are we not closer to where God wants us than when we are flitting around with an illusory sense of control or manifest destiny? Even those times when no angel appears to rescue you or the cabbie darts off before you can get all your valuables out of the car … that, too, is where God wants you.
God makes it clear we live in a war zone. Even the most seasoned of warriors does not expect comfort in the thick of battle, let alone seek comfort as his ultimate goal. I’ve seen pastors and elders too concerned with it. I’ve seen Christian workers overseas, even in the most difficult locations, overly concerned with comfort.
Comfort is, admittedly, different things for different people. My wife Nancy sees someone struggling with a suitcase and nudges me out of my comfort zone to help before I even notice their problem. Helping is very much her comfort zone. For some, sitting next to a stranger on an airplane and engaging in a pre-evangelistic conversation is almost second nature, while for others that is quite a reach.
If I am honest, I know when I am trying to turn my foxhole into a “man cave.” What are the areas of your life where you are most tempted to build a sanctuary for retreat rather than charging into the insecurity of battle? Writing of such matters can be dangerous … even convicting.
At this moment for me it is the neighbors down the street. Yes, we have been awfully busy; yes we need to protect ourselves. Yes, I can point to many, many times Nancy and I have neglected our comfort to offer healing to the weary and wounded. But this is about now and I know the Spirit of God wants me to feel guilty. And I do.
The real reason I haven’t turned to Nancy and reminded her we’ve been saying we will get together with those neighbors is, I feel weary. I want to feel comfortable and reaching out to our neighbors would require work, and, actually, I have lost a bit of that alien feeling. I want to settle in. I deserve that, don’t I?
You know the answer. You know what I need to do. What I have been avoiding has popped into print right here and forced a confession. Heaven can wait! Not only “can” but “must.” To the degree I attempt a shortcut to that experience, I deny the reality of the context God has me in now. Certainly we are blessed with tastes of heaven during our sojourn on this earth. When I own up to being the alien I am, heaven will be close enough for me to feel. I’ll be comforted by what I will someday realize is the only real home I could ever have.