WELCOME TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA“This is to notify you that your application for permanent residence has been approved. It is with great pleasure that we welcome you to permanent resident status in the United States.”
That’s what I read in the the first letter I opened on my return from Scotland on Saturday. Three years after arriving here with my family we have been granted our “green cards,” moving us from “resident alien” to “permanent resident” status.There is a tremendous psychological boost from such news. It gives me and my family a sense of security and stability. We can plan our future with a bit more certainty. We can begin to orient our hearts and minds to really making our home here and eventually applying for citizenship in five years time. We are also encouraged to see the providential hand of God in the immaculate timing of this notice – just a few hours after the sadness of leaving aging loved ones in Scotland, and but one month before our present visas expire. However, later on Saturday I was reminded by Hebrews 11 that really there is no “permanent resident” status in this world. You would have thought that when Abram reached the Land of Promise he would have felt “at home.” But he didn’t. He still felt as if he was in a “foreign” or “strange” country (v. 9). He had no sense of belonging or permanence, a feeling underlined by his family dwelling in tents (v. 9). This was not some natural home-sickness for Ur. Rather, it was a spiritual “heaven-sickness,” a godly longing for his eternal resident status. If you had asked Abram how he felt having arrived in the Promised Land, he would have said, “I feel like an alien, a pilgrim, an exile” (v. 13). “But, Abram, you’ve got everything God promised. Your can put down roots here. You can build for the long-term.” “No, no,” Abram would have replied, “I know I’m living in the best place in the world. But I’m looking far beyond this world. I’m on a life-long journey to a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. I desire an even better country than this, a heavenly country” (v. 10, 16). Abram’s new-found permanence actually deepened his sense of temporariness and transitoriness. His new home made him long for his eternal home. That’s what I want too.