We live in a high-end neighborhood in our town. This is the place where you want to go to garage sales and take your kids trick-or-treating, because you know you’re going to get good stuff. We live with my mother-in-law and her sister, and I’m always thinking to myself, We’re not the kind of people who can afford to live here. The yards are manicured. The vehicles are expensive. The homeowner association is picky. It’s a beautiful place.
But a few hundred yards from our house, behind a berm, is a massive gravel pit. Every morning I drink my coffee to the sound of heavy equipment. In the summer, I often close my windows because the sound is so loud and grating.
Daily it strikes me that even putting big money in a house doesn’t guarantee perfection and peace and quiet.
This is what it means to live in a broken world. We strive to get some control and make our lives good, but always there is the sound of crushing in the background. Even closing the windows doesn’t drown out all of the destruction happening close, much too close, to our personal lives.
Yesterday at church, a teenage girl said to me, “I’m so tired of all of this. I just want Covid to go away. I don’t want to wear a mask anymore. I want everything to go back to normal.”
Yes, I hear you. On beautiful mornings in Montana, I just want the bulldozers to stop making back-up noises that pierce through my serenity. Make it stop. Make it go away. Why can’t there just be the sound of birds in the backyard?
The gravel pit reminds me that there is no perfect home on this earth, which brings to mind this passage about people of faith long ago:
They admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country –a heavenly one. (Hebrews 11:13b-16a NIV)
The challenge for us in this passage comes in two questions:
What have we been longing for?
What have we been saying when we suffer?
Everyone right now is longing for a new year, in which this world where we live will be free of gravel pit noises: No Covid. No riots. The perfect president. Financial stability. But it won’t be the new calendar year and saying good riddance to 2020 that will make everything serene and perfect. As followers of Christ, we’re strangers and aliens in this broken place. We should long instead for a better country –a heavenly one.
Conversations about suffering this year come up on a daily basis. I challenge you to practice taking part in those conversations using words from the above Scripture passage. When people curse 2020 and long for a new year, try saying, “I long for heaven.” Steer the conversations to talk about a new country.