I am a poor wayfaring stranger
While traveling through this world of woe.
Yet there’s no sickness, toil or danger
In that bright world to which I go.
Except, I’m not really.
A wayfaring person, that is. Not in the sense that I actually travel long distances.
I see the questionnaire in the feed of my social media once in awhile. I even took the test once. It was embarrassing.
The question asks, How many states have you visited?
I’m not going to tell you the answer. Let’s just say less than half of them. I don’t have a deep-seated desire to travel. I never really have.
I’m sure it says something about my personality. I don’t really want to know. Or possibly, I do.
Maybe, I already know.
The song lyrics with which we opened this essay speak of traveling in this world, but they really look to the one to come. And, the words used to describe the poet in the first line tell the story. They tell it for me, anyway.
Were there ever two words juxtaposed to present such a bleak perspective? It is not the picture of camaraderie, fellow travelers headed for a common destination. It is, however, a tableau of a lonely figure wandering along the highway, shoulders hunched and coat held tightly at the neck to block the icy fingers of the frigid winter’s chill.
And, in that sad vision, I see myself clearly. I don’t travel with ease, for new surroundings put me in strange circumstances, a stranger in a strange place.
I’m not apologizing. I don’t even feel obliged to change.
There’s a reason I often feel uncomfortable here:
I simply don’t fit in very well.
I’m not supposed to.
The Apostle for whom I am named suggested that we who follow Christ will never be at home here. He, who historically was so bold as to claim citizenship in the Roman state even though he had never been in Rome, made an even bolder claim for us.
We are citizens of Heaven. (Philippians 3:20)
The poet called himself—and by association, each of us—a wayfaring stranger. My friends who live in foreign countries have a different word. Ex-pats, they fondly say, referring to themselves and folks who, like them, are not from the country they reside in physically.
Expatriates. It comes from the Latin expatriare, meaning out of one’s native country.
The Apostle speaks of being surrounded by those who think only about life here on earth. Somehow, they believe the journey all of us are on ends with death. The result is a preoccupation with comfort here and now. YOLO! You only live once!
Mr. Lewis suggests that, unlike nature which is mortal, we are immortal and will live forever. He is not wrong.
I cringe as I think about the number of times I have heard the YOLO phrase on the lips of others who claim to believe as I do, who say they follow the same Savior.
There are many who don’t seem like strangers here. Blending in like natives, they indeed, act as if today is all there is to live for. Certainly, they don’t seem like ex-pats, either to me or to the non-believers who surround us in this place.
But, I don’t speak for them. I can’t see the heart of any man or woman, and certainly wouldn’t presume to know where their journey will lead them.
I only know I’m looking for the day when my journey is complete and I arrive at my true destination, my native country. I don’t want to be an expatriate forever.
May I tell you a secret?
This is one trip I’m enjoying. Sure, I’m a stranger. The road is not always comfortable. Blazing hot days of struggling through the desert turn into the frozen blast as we scale the mountains between us and our destination.
There is pain and sorrow, there is loneliness and loss, along this road.
Ah, but the destination!
Like the Apostle and his citizenship in Rome, I have never been there. I’m not bothered by that in the slightest.
You see, I’m not a stranger there.
Home. It is my home.
They know me there.
How about you?
What springs from earth dissolves to earth again, and heaven-born things fly to their native seat.
(Marcus Aurelius ~ Roman Emperor ~ 121-180)
Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.
(1 Peter 2:11-12 ~ NASB)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.