My husband and I lived in China for two years. It was a wonderful experience, and I learned a lot. Though we became accustomed to life there and grew to love so many people, I never felt at home. That certainly doesn’t mean I regretted going. I just always carried around the knowledge that I was a stranger.
It may be different, but this feeling isn’t really gone when I’m here in the United States. I still feel like I’m living immersed in a culture that is not my own. As Christians we’re supposed to feel this way, because that is exactly what we are doing.
John 15:19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.
It was obvious why I felt that I did not really “belong” in China. It makes sense that I feel like a stranger in my own country because of my faith. Sometimes I also struggle in my relationships with people. There are people in this world whose friendship is nothing short of a divine gift. It almost brings me to tears to think of some of the people who I have been blessed to love. And still it remains, this feeling of being a stranger. Even with those who know me the best, there is not one that knows and understands me completely. And how could they? I am a stranger to myself, failing to understand my own words and actions.
Paul hit the nail on the head in Romans 7.
Romans 7:15-20 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
Why do we as humans refuse to do those things which will make us feel whole and choose over and over that which bestows nothing but varying degrees of emptiness? I think about my daily life and am constantly baffled by the decisions I make. It ranges from simple things like what I choose to eat all the way to failing to utilize God’s promise in James 4:8- “Come near to God and He will come near to you.” I’m a stranger in this world and a stranger to myself. What a terrible state to be in if not for Philippians 3:20-21!
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
What a comfort! Not only do we have a Savior who has promised to bring us home to heaven so we can dwell for eternity exactly where we belong, but this same Savior subjected himself to culture shock on a much deeper level than we’ve experienced in order to fulfill the prophecy in Isaiah.
He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
There are often times that I find deep consolation in the words of Hymn 417 I’m But a Stranger Here. This week, though, I have been meditating on the first verse of this hymn as if Jesus himself were singing it during each event in the Passion.
I’m but a stranger here; Heav’n is my home. Earth is a desert drear; Heav’n is my home. Danger and sorrow stand round me on ev’ry hand. Heav’n is my Fatherland; Heav’n is my home.
We are strangers here, but so was Christ. Now he’s waiting for us to join him in our heavenly home.