Citizens of Heaven
I spent a lot of my early years in Africa trying to create a home for my family. When packing, I agonized over how much of America to stuff into Ziplock baggies. I packed shoes in five sizes for the kids to grow into and rolled packets of taco seasoning inside the toes to save space. I thought about holidays and recipes and music and toys and books.
But then we left. Evacuated in 30 minutes with one suitcase and a backpack. Three months and two countries later, we tried to establish a home again. Now we are ending a year in the States while my husband pursued a doctorate degree and where we tried, again, to establish a home —a home we will leave in two months.
Home keeps slipping through my fingers.
And then I realized something. I’m not home yet. My kids aren’t home yet.
This home I live in, no matter on which side of the ocean, no matter on which continent, is not my kingdom or my refuge. It is a house, a building. Even more, it is the very space in which to teach my children that we are not home yet.
My youngest — a pale-skinned, freckled brunette — ran up to a food booth at an International festival in St. Paul, Minnesota. The banner over the booth clearly read “African American.” Lucy grinned and said to the women cooking, “African American, like me!”
Lucy was born in our host country and considers herself African. My older two vacillate between feeling American and feeling African, and this week my son told me he spends most of his life as an alien. He just learned the political meaning of the word.
I could spend a lifetime trying to create the illusion of home for my transitory family. I could talk them through passport identity, parents’ home country identity, Third Culture Kid identity. And we do have those conversations, but they are not the focal point. Instead, I need to emphasize their eternal identity.
Ephesians 2:19, a precious verse for expatriates, says, “You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God . . . Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.”
This is the citizenship, the home, and the community that is of ultimate importance, and with Christ as the cornerstone, it is gloriously unshakeable. Visas won’t have to be applied for or passports renewed.
Talking about our eternal identity and our eternal home isn’t only for the parents of Third Culture Kids. It was for Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, for Moses and Rahab, for all the heroes of Hebrews 11, and it is for every believer today, in every nation on earth, both parent and child.
People convinced their citizenship is in heaven are the kind of people who acknowledge that
they are strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:13–16)
Jewel, the horse in The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis, describes his homecoming like this:
I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. . . . Come further up, come further in!
Because of the cross, Christians know where we’re headed, and because of the cross, we are guaranteed citizenship. It is the country we belong in, the home and land we’ve been looking for all our lives. The color of our passport is blood red and our eternal visa has already been irrevocably stamped in.
We can’t always know what our house will look like or what country we will call home for any given season. But all believers can have full confidence and deep comfort that, because of Christ, God will not be ashamed to be called our God and that he has prepared a place for us. For you, for your children, for me, and for my Third Culture Kids as we each delight in him.