Have you ever thought of your life in terms of a pilgrimage? The Bible makes it pretty clear that we are all on a journey through this life and that we all have an eternal destination we are traveling toward – whether we realize it or not. For those of us who have accepted Jesus’ invitation to make our Home with Him, our lives here are described as aliens, foreigners, strangers, travelers, temporary residents, pilgrims, exiles and sojourners who are ‘just passing through’. (See Hebrews 11:8-10 & 1 Peter 2:11)
The strongest biblical ‘pilgrim language’ can be found within the biblical Psalter. In particular, the Psalms of Ascent (120-134) and one of my personal favorites, Psalm 84, which all draw our rich analogies depicting life as a pilgrimage toward the heart of God. Meditating on these psalms has enhanced my vision of Home and the promise that along the way God will strengthen me and give me purpose through the valleys. These Spirit-inspired songs help me grasp the truth that I am indeed Homeward Bound and help me to BE Homeward Bound!
What I mean by this statement is that although we may be heading toward our eternal Home with Jesus, not all of us intentionally live this way. It is so easy to lose sight of a sense of pilgrimage. Instead, we put our hopes into this life and make ourselves ‘at home’ here in this temporary place. To BE Homeward Bound is to live with an intentional destination in mind. It is to view life as a journey Home and to recognize that the pain we experience here on earth has a purpose – it is here to remind us that we are not Home yet!
Someone I respect once described his earthly home as a ‘motel room’. He explained that it would be foolish of him to make this motel room elaborate, comfortable and cozy. In doing so he knew he would miss the point of life and eventually lose the desire to journey away from it. The dwellings God has given us here on earth are just ‘waiting rooms’ my friends – not something to invest all our time and energies into.
However, I am not suggesting that these motel or waiting rooms cannot be used by God or are not part of His plan for us while we wait and journey Home. The prophet Jeremiah addressed the exiles about these issues while they were away from home and in captivity…
“Build homes and plan to stay. Plant gardens and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children… Multiply! Do not dwindle away! Work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I send you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” (Jem 29:5-7)
You may remember that these words precede the more famous passage where Jeremiah prophesies that God will indeed bring the exiles home and that He has very good plans for them! (Jem 29:11) If you read further, Jeremiah goes on to warn the exiles to protect their hearts in the meantime and not become like the ungodly nation that lives around them.
So it seems that while we are on a journey Home, one that we are called to live as intentional pilgrims, we are also called to live here with purpose and fruitfulness. We are to live as lights to the nations, communities and families where God has placed us for the time being. I am thankful God recognizes this balance in our pilgrimage and that He gives us these rich examples in His Word. While we are Homeward Bound we are called to allow the pain of our homesick hearts to motivate us to bless others who are also weeping and may not know the way Home.
This week I have had the great privilege of sitting with an older sister who has come to the very last leg of her journey on earth. She is eagerly anticipating her Homecoming but is naturally uncertain about just what this final path will look like. She calls them “the last bumps Home”. It is a fact that pilgrims do better when traveling together. So fellow sojourners, let us encourage each other as we hit the bumps, twists and turns in the road while at the same time living life to the full here and keeping out hearts set on Heaven. Let us BE Homeward Bound and live in the fullness of what it means to be pilgrims just passing through!
Songs to encourage you:
Psalm 84 by Sons of Korah
This is Home by Switchfoot
Homesick by MercyMe
A book to build you up:
In My Father’s House by Anne Lotz