Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Places vs. Things
I’ve always said if I struck it rich (as Jeeves would say “the contingency is a remote one, sir”), I would love to travel extensively. I’m not the least bit interested in owning a big house, driving a fancy car, or wearing designer clothes. It’s not that I’m ultra humble, or that I don’t like nice things, but I’m pretty content with the “stuff” of my life. Sometimes I walk around my house in utter astonishment muttering “thank you Jesus, for my palace!” I recognize the obvious disparity between my possessions and those of ninety percent of the world. On my best days I’m practically overwhelmed with gratitude.
No, what I covet on my worst days and dream of on my better ones is to see the places that decorate this blue ball in the universe. Mind you, I’ve been blessed with more travel than the average Joe. Back in my career days with Reading Rainbow I traversed the big 48, and even spent a month in
. I wondered at the waterfowl and complex ecosystem of the mighty Hawaii Chesapeake Bay. I watched in awe as millions of bats left their guano laden cave at dusk to consume billions of mosquitos somewhere near the Mexican border. I hiked the Highline Trail in on the 4th of July and stood face to face with a papa big horn sheep and his harem. I cried overlooking a vast chasm on the way from Glacier National Park Montana Estes Park, Colorado to . I’ve met interesting people, from a model train expert in Aspen New Jersey to the pig wrastlers at the Pomona County Fair in . I stood on the eye of the Statue of Liberty while it was being restored back in the 1980’s. California
Places have personalities. Much like people, you have to get to know them a little bit to find out the lovely things about them. Some wow you immediately, some grow on you, and some just aren’t your kind of ice cream. But I sure would love to try a few more flavors.
For example, I want to visit
Dulwich College in where Ernest Shackleton’s 23 foot whaler, the James Caird is on display. (That open wooden boat travelled 800 miles in the England and was a vital tool in the rescue of Shackleton’s men from their ordeal near the frozen South Pole – but that’s another story). In all my travels I still haven’t seen the Arctic Sea Grand Canyon. More than anything, I want to set my feet in the Holy City of Jerusalem. That, my friends, is one piece of real estate lots of people seem to want to get their hands on…
Alas, I haven’t struck it rich, and right about now with 3 teenagers in the house and the ongoing recovery from a wildly perilous car accident, I won’t be trompsing about in my wayfaring boots anytime soon.
There is one place that captures my heart more than any other. That place is heaven. Some of my my most dearly held secrets contain my thoughts about that celestial homeland. Our ancient father Abraham’s feelings about that promised land mirror my own: “For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” Hebrews 11:10 The appeal of heaven is hard to overstate. John the Revelator tries to use human language to describe something that defies words. Images foreign to our 21st century imaginations seem weird. Some folks would have you believe that heaven is not really a place, but a state of mind. I don’t buy that one. Rivers, cities, streets…these are all the stuff of places. No, it will be a real, solid, substantive whereabouts alright. This world will seem like the wispy shadow land. That place will team with life and love and freedom. (For a great fictional story about the “realness” of heaven, try C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce).
In the long run, it’s places I prefer to things. But honestly, I couldn’t care less if heaven were a barn. The appeal of heaven is my Jesus. Without Him, it’s not heaven at all. The most beautiful place in the world is hopelessly boring and sterile without the key ingredient: Relationship. And eternally speaking, relationship with God is the passport to the wonder and joy of heaven.
For now, I’m hoping to make this broken place just a wee bit better for some of the other dwellers on this planet. But when my ticket home comes through, watch out for the woman that’s like a “short, brunette streak of light” (to paraphrase Cary Grant in “Arsenic and Old Lace”). My pilgrim road days will be over. My true travellin’ days will have just begun!
Your friend on the pilgrim road,