"I have absolutely no use for dragon-guarded treasures, and the whole lot could stay here for ever, if only I could wake up and find this beastly tunnel was my own front-hall at home!" Bilbo Baggins
One of the books I’m currently reading is On the Shoulders of Hobbits: The Road to Virtue with Tolkien and Lewis by Louis Markos. We learn from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion that Eru Ilúvatar is the supreme creator of Tolkien’s fictitious Middle-earth world. The elves receive immortality but are bound to the earth. The humans aren’t bound to the earth like the elves but will face death one day to go on to some higher destiny.
At first it seems kind of unfair that the elves get to stay bound to the earth. But Tolkien actually calls mortality the “Gift of Men.” Why would Tolkien say that? Louis Markos remarks, “’In tandem with his ‘gift’ of mortality, (Eru) Ilúvatar had granted them as well a spirit of restlessness that they might never feel quite comfortable or at home in this world. For Tolkien, that is to say, our status as pilgrims and sojourners is natural to us; it has been ‘hardwired’ in our genes by a Creator.’”
I didn’t know this truth until I came to know Jesus at the age of seventeen. Oh how I longed for home even though I didn’t know home wasn’t here. This reminds me of what St. Augustine wrote when he said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 echoes this, “God has put eternity into man's heart.” A recent trip to London reminded me of this truth.
"Preaching" on a tree stump in Hyde Park
Lauren and I decided to go to London for a few days since it is only 60 miles from Oxford. We tried to find a place to stay on Couchsurfing (yes our American friends, you do stay with people you don’t know) but because it is in the middle of the Holidays we didn’t find anyone to stay with. So since we have been feeling adventurous lately we decided to do another thing that would freak out both our parents, stay at a hostel!
Thanks to Google we found the cheapest hostel in all of London. And let me tell you, it was great. They had clean rooms, clean sheets, and even provided free breakfast! There was only one problem; we had to share a room with two other people. The first night we shared a room with two guys from Asia and everything was fine until about ten minutes after we turned off the lights we heard heavy breathing from one of the guys and then came our worst nightmare, loud and obnoxious snoring. It was the worst night ever.
It was so bad that the next morning we asked the staff if they could move us to a different room and they gladly obliged. We were excited and sure that in God’s sovereignty that we escaped another torturous night. After a delightful time exploring Dickens London we arrived in our new room to find a very large guy asleep in his bed. The room smelled like cigarettes, dirty socks, and beer. This wasn’t looking good. We quickly got in our beds to try and fall asleep. Then it started. You know, the heavy breathing and then monster snoring like one of the orcs from Lord of the Rings.
Lauren got so mad she threw her phone on the floor from the top bunk hoping to wake the guy up so he would realize how loud he was and try and sleep on his side. He didn’t even flinch. I think we fell asleep around 6AM and were woken up by this guy at 8AM. He just kept making noise and had like three beers before he finally left the room at 9:30AM. Checkout was at 10:00AM. Suffice it to say we don’t ever plan on staying at a hostel again, ever.
As I thought about this experience I was reminded of the fact that we truly are sojourners in this world. The Apostle Peter reminds us Christians of this truth in 1 Peter 2:11 declaring, “I urge you as sojourners and exiles…” The Greek word is paroikos and it literally means to be a stranger or foreigner; one who lives in a place without the right of citizenship.
What I love is that even though I am still a citizen on this earth, God has given me a greater citizenship in Heaven where He resides. Practically speaking, because the gospel has given me the merit to enter God’s Kingdom, this place is not my home. Just like I only spent two nights out of my 9,496 days that I have lived so far on this earth up until today (yes I added in the extra leap year days), so will my time here on earth compared to eternity be but a shadow.
This comforts me because as I long to be in Miami during this season of my life, I am reminded of the fact that even Miami isn’t my ultimate home. I am just a sojourner and foreigner passing through this world trying to take as many people as possible with me to be with King Jesus. Besides, what would home be without the people we love? Home is not primarily a place as much as it is a presence. Thank God he has given us a taste of Heaven by putting His Spirit in us so no matter where we are He is with us.