About two years ago I was lucky enough to study abroad, something I’d dreamed about for years. I’ve always been a lover of travel and adventure, and so fate should have it that I be the ONLY student from the thousands at American University to choose Hong Kong for their spring semester. I thought, “This is even better! An adventure completely on my own!”
I was wrong. Being alone in a country for months where you don’t even know the language is hard. Making new friends, finding travel buddies, ordering food…it was all hard. In addition, I was struggling with being a Christian without my Christian community for the first time ever. Was my faith really that dependent on my friends? Because it felt like I’d lost all confidence in God as soon as my feet touched Asia.
However, there is one verse I discovered during my adventures that I now feel describes every instance of uncertainty I felt.
Hebrews 11:13 reads, “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” (ESV).
Hebrews lists the heroes of the Old Testament and their struggles to follow God’s promises even when they did not see them fulfilled. They knew their home was not on earth, but in heaven. When I lived in Hong Kong I felt the weight of being a stranger to everyone I met. I felt like everything I said sounded foreign and screamed “I DON’T BELONG HERE.” When I mispronounced words on a menu and had to take a picture of the food I wanted, and then go back to the front of the line, I was mortified! But isn’t that humility what God is telling us we need to feel all the time, even in our own neighborhoods?
If we take negative feelings as a sign that God is not with us, then we have everything he’s been teaching us through His Word backwards. I don’t strive to get rid of my uncertainty and discomfort. I embrace it as I sign that I do not really belong here or anywhere this side of heaven. I know I’m a stranger to this earth, whether that be in Asia, Europe, Africa, or America. The moment I start to feel like I belong here is the moment I stop looking forward to God.