This post was not what I expected myself to write when I sat down this morning. However, I have been recently inspired by the meaningful words of a man named Henri Nouwen. Maybe you've heard of him. He was a Catholic priest and well-known Christian theologian who wrote many books in the late 1900's. I'm currently reading one of his books, The Inner Voice of Love, which he actually hesitated to publish because of the intimate nature of the thoughts he confesses so honestly about his spiritual journey.
Here is an excerpt from The Inner Voice of Love, that has led me to reflect on several things for the past couple of days.
You have an idea of what the new country looks like. Still, you are very much at home, although not truly at peace, in the old country. Now you have come to realize that you must leave it and enter the new country, where your Beloved dwells....
For a while you experience a real joy in the new country. But then you feel afraid and start longing again for all you left behind, so you go back to the old country. To your dismay, you discover that the old country has lost its charm. Risk a few more steps into the new country, trusting that each time you enter it, you will feel more comfortable and be able to stay longer.
The first thought that came to my mind after reading this passage was, I experienced this in Ecuador. I knew I had to leave the United States, and I tried to mentally and spiritually prepare myself for the culture shock and different worldviews I would encounter. Being there initially was great, exploring new places, having adventures, learning the language, etc. But after the "honeymoon stage" wore off, I began having doubts, feeling lost and confused, and longing for people and things I had left behind in my homeland.
Then I started to see certain parts of U.S. culture through a different lens. I started to realize that maybe the most powerful nation in the world isn't as perfect as we make it out to be. My country has a lot of issues with greed, economic disparity, and ethnocentrism, just to name a few. America had lost its charm for me.
As my time in Ecuador continued, I realized that I needed to make a leap. I had been afraid of getting too involved, connecting too deeply with the people, because I knew that I would have to leave again in a short time. God was calling me to risk a few more steps into this new country, trusting Him to guide me. To stay a little longer. And when I did that, even though it hurt to leave, it was so totally worth it.
The second thought, after re-reading these paragraphs, is that Nouwen was most likely talking about Heaven here. We all have some idea of Heaven, what we imagine it to be like, whether it is buildings made of pure gold and pearl gates, or breathtaking waterfalls surrounded by lush gardens. There comes a point in life when we comprehend that we are going to leave this world as it is and travel to the next. I love Nouwen's image of Heaven being a place where your Beloved dwells. His perception is that it will be a place of joy, where we will be with our Beloved, our Redeemer, our best friend. That really resonated with me. Our friendship with Jesus is the deepest, most loving relationship we could ever have. And we get to spend eternity with Him.
Arriving in Heaven, maybe we'll doubt, miss our family and friends, mourn for the days we lost on Earth. But in time we will come to understand that being there is more wonderful than anything we could have ever imagined. Going back home no longer seems like an option. This is home. There are so many new experiences to be had here, if we would just risk taking that step of faith, trusting that each time we will feel more comfortable and be able to stay longer.