I’ve spent the majority of my adult career among tourists. Working for a giant entertainment corporation, entertaining guests from around the world was our bread and butter. And as a professional people watcher, I can usually spot a tourist a mile away!
Besides the stereotypical attire of Hawaiian shirt, long shorts, white socks and sandals with the ever present camera swinging around their neck, there is something about a tourist that makes them stand out.
They may dress differently than the locals, but there’s more than that. They may ask more questions, sometimes real head scratchers like, “when’s the 2pm parade start?”, but there’s still more that sets them apart.
They have a curiosity about the place they are visiting. It appears that their heads are on constant swivel as they try to soak up all the sights and sounds surrounding them. They take more pictures, try more “local” cuisines and head out for fearless adventures in the places they find themselves visiting.
Most tourists simply enjoy being in a place that is very different from home, knowing that the visit will be brief and will energize them once they are ready to head home. They don’t get bogged down in the drama of day to day living because ultimately, it doesn’t matter to them; they don’t live here. And, really, no matter what we do or where we go, there really is no place like home!
As I was thinking about tourists in general, I was reminded of an old song called, “Wayfaring Stranger.” It was published in 1858 as part of a collection of popular hymns and spiritual songs of the time. My dad had a group of singers that toured around the country and one of the female vocalists sang this song. It was one of my favorites because of its haunting melody and words that reminded me, I won’t be spending eternity here, I’m just traveling through until it’s time to go home to heaven!
I’m just a poor wayfaring stranger,
Travellin’ through this world of woe.
Yet there’s no sickness, toil, or danger
In that bright land to which I go.
If you think about it, as a Christian and follower of Jesus, this world we live in is not our permanent home, we’re just passing through. Over and over, the Bible reminds us that our time here on earth is short and there is more to life than this existence we currently experience. As a child of God, my ultimate destination and home for eternity is Heaven!
In reality, I’m just a tourist, a lifelong tourist, until Jesus takes me home. And like a tourist, I want to be easy to spot. I may not walk around in a Hawaiian shirt with socks and sandals, but I should still stand out as different. Rather than lashing out or screaming at someone out of anger, I should be reconciled to them. If someone hurts me, I should pray for them. And that questionable joke being told in the break room? I shouldn’t be laughing at it or encouraging unkind comments or actions.
In other words, I need to be different from the rest of the world. God calls His chosen children to be holy, set apart from the world. My favorite dictionary, Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of The English Language, says this about the word holy:
HO’LY: Hallowed; consecrated or set apart for a sacred use, or to the service or worship of God.
Basically, we need to care about this world, but not put our hope in it. I need to love the people of this world, but I don’t need to act like them. When I’m in doubt as to what to do, all I have to do is look to Jesus and how He lived. He was human, yet holy and set apart. He lived his life in the world but not of the world.
There’s nothing wrong with soaking up all the good and beauty I see in this world. Jesus talked often about the beauty God created for His creation to enjoy. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying time with family and friends or quiet times wandering through my garden. Jesus loved his friends more than life and spent many hours in nature talking to His Heavenly Father. The key is to remember that there is more, so much more, waiting for us in heaven.
When I think of all that makes me happy here, I can multiply that by a gagillion and still wouldn’t come close to what heaven will feel like! And on the other hand, all the things that break my heart for such a lost world won’t be a part of our eternal home. My heart can hurt for this broken world I live in, but I know that God can heal all the hurt if the world would just let Him.
I kind of like the idea of thinking of myself as a lifelong tourist. I’m finding that it makes the really hard things not quite as painful because I know it’s only temporary and not part of my real home. I want to be the kind of tourist that can’t stop talking about my hometown. I want to see if I can bring as many “locals” with me and help them become tourists here and at home in heaven!
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.
– Hebrews 12:14
Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
– 1 Peter 1: 13-16