A far-off country: Looking for the space to call home

written by Anna Harris

When I first moved to Korea, I’ll be honest, it was a relief just to be out of the U.S. I was tired of the people, the mindsets, the culture, the conflict, the way issues were being handled (or not handled). Korea was full of new and interesting people, food, and culture points. The more years I lived, there, however, the m ore disillusioned I became, both because of the conversations I was having, the issues coming to light nationally, and my own personal experiences. It may seem like an obvious conclusion, but it was my first time fully experiencing the truth that no country is perfect and leaving for a different country is just trading one set of problem for another.

But then I read a passage that really made things click for me. Hebrews 11:1-13. It talks about how various Biblical characters acting based on faith although they couldn’t see the reason for their actions.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore, from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore. These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

Thinking of heaven and God’s Kingdom as a far-off country always just seemed like a nice allegory. These verses gave clarity to the feelings I’ve had of wishing I could find a space, a community, where I can grow, flourish, and feel perfect belonging and support. Here are three main takeaways I had from the reading.

1. Faith

Of all the old heroes of the Bible, not one of them knew for sure God’s words would happen. Sarah trusted God to make good on His promise to bless their descendants. Abraham ventured into the desert in search of an ideal place to settle that would allow he and his offspring to thrive. A home. All sought a land that they had no way of knowing if they would see it. Their faith in God guided their uncertain steps. Even when we don’t know where God’s leading us, we take one step of faith at a time. We do our best to listen to where God is leading us, just as the people from the Bible did. Even more, we’re all ultimately looking for the same promised country.

2. We long because we’re waiting

You know the feeling of dissatisfaction you sometimes feel? The pressure to have a better job, to have a better place to live? The feeling that somewhere out there, there’s a community, church, friend or partner who, if you could just find them, would fix so many problems. Or maybe you’ve had a longing and actually gotten the thing you wanted only to find that the longing didn’t go away.

This feeling, this inability to sit in the present and keep from feeling dissatisfied us waiting for something we can’t see. Because we can’t touch it, we put the weight of the longing on other things. Wholeness with God, His Kingdom, and each other is what we seek, but it’s a vague longing because we don’t see it clearly now.

Just as I’ve realized I can never just move to another country and have all my problems fixed, no single or combined thing here will satisfy my waiting heart because the country and community I long for are beyond this present reality.

3. Even though we are waiting, we’re working

Another major takeaway is that though these Biblical characters walk toward something they don’t get in their lifetime, they don’t simply wait or try to exit early. They have a job to do. They work while they wait. They build what they can of the promised country here on earth, even if it’s just a shadow of things to come. We have tasks to complete and a unique path to the Kingdom that we follow.

I found this passage so comforting, because the longing toward something else, something bigger, has been a shared human experience since humans first had conscious thought. Through faith, we wait. And while we wait, we work to bring a breath of redeemed creation to earth now, even as we know it is not yet here.

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