Desiring a Better Country
by Zach Simons
This insight by C.S. Lewis is well known in the evangelical world. Even more well known is his work Mere Christianity from which it comes. I read it for the first time in high school and, since then, have seen this particular statement on inspirational graphics, on social media, and in all sorts of writing. But it’s not until just recently that I have begun to really understand it.
When I was young, I used to play outside at home and pretend that I was a traveler to foreign lands and had experienced all sorts of adventure. I was drawn to books like The Hobbit and Gulliver’s Travels. I imagined myself experiencing all that the world had to offer and wished to be almost anywhere, rather than stuck at home. It was a longing that was hard to pinpoint, but one that had me convinced I was made for more than my limited experience allowed. The irony is that now, as an adult, accumulated experience has the opposite affect. They make me long for the comfort of home. Aly and I had a chance to travel to Europe last month and were both astounded by the varieties of beauty and culture we experienced. But rather than scratch the itch left by the bite of the “travel bug,” these experiences awakened an even GREATER longing in me, one that cannot be satisfied by the comfort of home or the excitement of adventure.
The grass is always greener. When at home, we long to experience something greater and more exciting. When experiencing the world, we develop homesickness. This can leave us disoriented and disappointed, as if we don’t belong anywhere. But this homesickness and sense of confusion surrounding where or what we were made for is distinctly Christian. There is a reality that is difficult for any follower of Christ to come to grips with: our home is not our home. Hebrews calls us to live as “strangers and exiles on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13). Indeed, Jesus chose us out of this world to live as citizens of another world (John 15:19). I’m realizing that this means something somewhat shocking to me. It means that my family is not my home. Four Oaks is not my home. Sojourn Network is not my home. My friendships are not my home. America is not my home. My experiences are not my home. For all the goodness and grace that the Father blesses me with through these things, they are simply shadows of the homeland that awaits me with Christ. What I truly desire is a “better country” (Hebrews 11:14–16).
The reason that the satisfaction of our longings eludes us is that we were made for another world, the one that is promised to us when Christ returns and remakes heaven and earth, where we will dwell in his presence. No current comfort, experience, achievement, approval, or possession can ever sooth our restlessness. The most that these things can do is give us little glimpses of our true homeland, which simply heighten our longing to be there. It’s helpful to realize that this is a normal Christian experience. Rather than fight it, we ought to embrace it and let God use it to draw us to him.
As this truth has been working on my heart recently, I’m increasingly aware of the things that choke my faith. The cares of this world and the deceitfulness of possessions (Matthew 13:22) are exposed for what they really are; attempts to make this earth my home. But to live as a citizen of the heavenly kingdom I was created for frees me from this vain pursuit. Just as Abraham lived in a land of promise that he could not see, we live in the promise of our homecoming.
This means that, until then, we can travel light. The burdens and expectations we place on earthly comforts or earthly experiences can be lifted. They were never meant to satisfy you anyway, and they certainly can’t stand up under that pressure. Let your heart rest in the fact that Jesus has gone ahead of you to prepare your home and is planning your homecoming. Augustine wrote that “our heart is restless until it finds its rest [God].” Because of Jesus’ work in salvation, perfect rest of the soul is offered to us. That comes as a great relief in the midst of my confusion between wanderlust and homesickness. All our longings are met and satisfied in the one for whom they were meant. So I’m praying that, as a body of Christ, our spirits would learn to travel light and that we will develop habits that turn our eyes to Jesus. To look to him is to look to the country we were made for and to the magnificent homecoming that awaits us.