Thursday, July 23, 2020

Longing for a Better Country

It's been nearly four months since we were first quarantined, as the Bolivian government has sought to contain the spread of COVID-19. In these four months Tara and I have been able to go out on a limited basis—mainly to buy food and supplies—but we can count on one hand the number of times the kids have left the house since mid-March. In the meantime, stay-at-home orders in the States have been relaxed and my social media feeds have been filled with vacation photos of my friends enjoying hikes in the mountains, relaxing at the beach, walking through wooded parks, boating, and swimming.

So I sit in my tiny walled-in yard, trying to appreciate the blue sky and potted plants. I do my best to enjoy the beauty of the mountains through the razor wire and utility lines. But lately, as someone who loves nature, I have found myself dreaming about how great it would be to be back in the States right now, where I could take my kayaks out on the river, hike through the woods, go camping, and enjoy walks by the lakeshore. Sometimes I wonder why God brought us here at this time, and why we couldn't be back in the States enjoying summer activities rather than being confined to our house in Bolivia.

The Bible speaks of men and women of faith who longed for another country—but they were not longing for the United States of America!
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth... If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:13–16)

Lately I've found myself thinking more of the country I left than looking ahead to the better, heavenly country. I think of this photo as a metaphor for my life as a Christian. Like the distant mountains, there is a beautiful land that awaits: a heavenly Kingdom ruled by a good King. As I run this race, I ought to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus and on the prize that lies ahead. But there are so many distractions that divert my attention away and dim my view—just as the power lines, haze, and shadows distract me from appreciating that distant mountain range.

We left our home in the United States and moved to Bolivia, believing that this is the path He has called us to for this season (a season that may last the rest of our lives; we don't know). Our desire is to faithfully run this race with our eyes fixed on Him, but I am easily distracted. It's so easy to love the world and the things of the world—to enjoy the creation rather than the Creator. I can get fixated the blessings that God allows me to enjoy, rather than growing deeper in my love for the One who bestows those blessings on me. There is a constant temptation to take my spiritual eyes off of that which is eternal and to become consumed with those things that are temporary.

We know that this season of quarantine will not last forever, and trust that the Lord has fruitful ministry for our family in Bolivia. I also can't wait until the day I can get out with my family and enjoy the country He has brought us to, rather than being confined to our home. But in the meantime my prayer is that I will keep my eyes focused on Jesus, and that I won't be so shortsighted that I simply long for the country I left when I came to Bolivia. I pray that, instead, I will look forward to being with Him in the eternal home that He is preparing for those who love Him. May I be able to say with the apostle Paul:
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:12–14).