We are home again... or are we? We arrived in Minas Tirith at 3:30am on Monday early morning after a 36 hour trip. The very good news is that after four flights we arrived with all of our bags. The bad news is that since we have all of our bags we will now spend the next week or so trying to figure out where to put all the stuff. But I don't want to talk about stuff just now- maybe later- now I want to talk about home.
We were talking to a friend of ours last Sunday and we told him how much we were looking forward to going 'home'. He said he had a problem with that. He said he knew that most M's referred to their assignments overseas as home but he didn't understand it. Were we not patriotic Americans? Well, the answer is yes, I am. My father was a pilot in the US Air Force and I grew up on base. I was born in Kittery, Maine- a place that I never lived even two full days. I actually lived at that time on the Air Force base across the river in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. We moved when I was one to Mobile, Alabama. When I was two we moved back to New Hampshire and when I was three we moved to California. We then moved to Nebraska, where my parents were originally from, when I was seven but moved to Florida when I was ten. When I was twelve we made the big move to Okinawa, Japan which was very significant because that is where I accepted Christ and was baptized in a Southern Baptist Church- actually, it was an SB affiliated Church as there are no SB Churches outside the US. When I was fifteen we moved to Germany. I was called into International Mission work then but a significant event happened then that cemented how I felt about America. On base we always stood for the National Anthem before the movie began in the movie theater. One day I was standing with my best friend and he started acting silly- well, we were just 17 at the time. I had taken off my hat as the anthem began but he grabbed it from me and put it on his own head. I was offended and took it from him but he grabbed it back and placed it on his head again. Just then a large man behind us in an officer's uniform snatched my hat off of my friend's head- with no small amount of hair- and pushed the hat forcibly into my friend's chest. My friend looked very sheepish and said softly, 'thank you, sir.' As I stared at my friend I understood something that I hoped that the officer understood. My friend was really grateful. He was grateful to be reminded of the importance of our anthem and he was ashamed that he had momentarily forgotten it. I was proud of my friend for feeling this depth of patriotism and I realized that I loved my country very much as well; that my Country was not something that I took for granted but something I chose to be thankful for and responsible for.
This last time I was home I heard a lot of Christians complaining about our Country and it saddened me. I know we have a lot of problems but I wish others could see our country from a global perspective. Here's an example. My wife and I were talking about this issue in a local fast food place. As we discussed what a real post-christian nation would look like and what a real financial meltdown would be like a worker came by cleaning the tables around us. It was obvious he had down-syndrome or some such handicap. As he worked his fellow workers treated him with respect and dignity, so did the customers. In fact, I began to suspect that this young man was actually a very popular person in this community. Do you know how many communities there are in the world that accept and respect people with disabilities? How about none, especially with mental handicaps. Zero, zilch, nada. No community in the rest of the world is capable of accepting mentally disabled people. Only in America. I could be wrong, maybe there are places where the disabled are loved and respected, maybe in England for example. I don't know about them. I am proud to be an American. But I don't live in America. I am home now in Minas Tirith, Gondor. A country where the disabled are hidden and shamed. A country where the banks do not function and people suffer under the oppression of a truly non-existent economy.
I received some encouragement this morning as I pondered all of this. I read in Hebrews 11:15-16:
If they had been thinking of the land they had left behind, 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; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.
Let us all be proud to belong to the nations that have sheltered us but at the same time let us work for the promise of a new home. A home provided for by our loving heavenly Father himself. The old writers were right, 'This world is not my home, I'm just passing through.'