Kingfishers and Pilgrims

“You cannot be a Christian without also being a pilgrim, travelling light through the world.” ~Peter Masters

“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” (Hebrews 11:13)

I happened upon a new way of expressing feeling foreign to a situation or circumstance: “As out of place as a kingfisher on the Interstate.” On leaving New Orleans International Airport and rounding up and onto Interstate 10 East toward the New Orleans business district, I spied a kingfisher sitting on a grey metal guardrail overlooking the highway below. I did a double take, and had I been able to do so without endangering myself, I would have snapped a photo of the unusual sighting with my cell phone. Questions jostled for consideration: Where were the fish? How far away was the water? Was he lost? Had she been confused by traffic, causing it to need to regroup and regain her wits about herself?

I sense a certain kinship with the ill-fitted urban kingfisher. I find myself feeling frequently out-of-place in the land of my birth. Not like when trying to pay my phone bill in Meru, Kenya, or meandering through a Hindu temple in Ahmedabad, India, where unfamiliar customs and language left me more than uneasy and wondering what a peaceable man like me was doing midst a scene of seeming chaos and conflict; but out-of-sync with the currents swirling about in this postmodern world. What I see and hear as acceptable behavior, even among believers, often strikes as unimaginable. Abortion is hailed as a woman’s right with no thought to the right or plight of the unborn child. Same-sex marriage and transgender choice is flaunted as normal, while hatred of and violence against police is touted as democracy at the highest and lowest ends of the spectrum. I’ve always known change is inevitable, but not all change is an improvement. What contemporaries often cheer as “enlightenment” is as incongruous as a kingfisher on the interstate. 

Ironically, life down here is supposed to feel this way. The Bible terms us “pilgrims passing through,” transients in a culture gone mad. Believers are earthly vagabonds, cultural hobos. The moment we feel fully at home in this world is the instant we have forsaken our sacred destiny; a divinely orchestrated tension is intended. Christians are called to extend grace that beckons to the One beyond, without holding hands with that which disgraces the name and character of Christ. If you find yourself increasingly restless as you encounter a world you no longer understand, take heart. This is precisely as God intends. Do not wring your hands as one powerless to change the situation, or hang your head in despair. Advance with a sense of destiny. The more at odds you feel with this present age, the more suited you are for the age to come. 

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