Thursday, June 5, 2014

Tent Life - Living as Strangers in a Foreign Country

Photo Credit: Christian Arballo (Creative Commons)

In the past few weeks, while I’ve been hanging out with a high schooler, they’ve asked me a question: 

“So, how long are you planning on staying in Canada?” 

They ask with a bit of trepidation, hesitant about their desire to hear the answer. Their question fills me with a sense of affection—they’re asking because they don’t want to see me leave any time soon!—and a bit of hesitation. If I’m honest about my answer, I really don’t know.  As an American immigrant living on a temporary visa, I’m still a visitor of sorts, a resident of Canada without a current sense of permanence.

I know what I want to say. I want to say that I’ll be here for the long haul, committed to planting roots and growing deeper in relationship with others. I’ve fallen more in love with the land and the people and the city and our church, and I have little desire to abandon any of it. Yet I’m also aware that my life isn’t about my personal comforts or aspirations or plans. This entire following-Jesus-with-my-whole-life thing is a journey of faith. Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Faith is present certainty in God’s promises for the future based on God’s faithful actions in the past.

Just look at the faith of Abraham
By faith, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tent, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise (Hebrews 11:8-9). 
He lived in a tent. Tents are inherently temporary, able to be quickly moved by a traveling pilgrim. Even though God had promised Abraham numerous descendants and that he'd be the father of a nation, he never saw the promise completed in his lifetime. Why did he leave everything behind and choose to live in tents, temporary dwellings in a land he never fully inherited? For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God (vs. 10). Abraham was longing for a heavenly country, a better country God had prepared (vs. 16). He recognized that a life of dwelling in God’s presence was better than any temporary comfort or circumstance. He was faithful and hopeful, and his very dwelling structure indicated his willingness to go wherever and whenever God led him.

So while I have no idea how long I’ll be in Canada—hopefully for a very long time!—I’m not particularly worried. God is present and faithful, and that is enough. I'm embracing the tent life. I remember reading in Sustainable Youth Ministry that all youth pastor positions are interim roles. Whether we're present for two months, two years, or two decades, every pastor is in their church (and this world) only for a season. We're strangers in a foreign country, longing for the day when we'll be wholly reunited with Christ in His kingdom. For now, we serve faithfully where He has called us, ready to pack our tents if He leads us to new lands.

As the summer approaches, I’m reminded of how much change and transition we all go through. From high school and university graduations, to summer weddings and the birth of children, to memorial services remembering people who have passed away, to new jobs or career choices, change is inevitable. Yet through all things, God is present and available through Christ. The people of Christ’s kingdom are all sojourners and strangers in a foreign country. We are citizens of a heavenly country, presently living with hope in the God who saves. We dwell in tents.

As we live the tent life, let’s put our whole faith in Him alone, hopeful and eager for the kingdom of heaven to come into our world!

No comments:

Post a Comment