There’s something so romanticized about the idea of hastily packing a bag and taking off into the world to snag your latest Instagram pic from a far-off country with a name that you have trouble pronouncing. Maybe it’s the travel accounts that we follow, where we comment with (at least) four heart emojis and fantasize about the day that we’re able to get a yellow lab and live in a hut somewhere in the depths of Cambodia. We can dream, right?
And honestly, if you grew up in the church bubble, sometimes there’s an underlying idea that traveling around the world is only justifiable if it’s under the guise of missions. And for some people, they needed that excuse. If you were doing work for Christ and traveling to make His name famous, there’s no way that anyone could accuse your trips around the world as somehow selfish.
But fr fr, in our opinion, travel is in no way selfish. It’s an opportunity to see the world, yes. But you also can experience other cultures, put yourself in uncomfortable positions and scenarios, and see how the Lord is making things happen in places that you’d never expect.
That’s pretty dope, let’s be honest.
There’s a lot of time to be confrontational while traveling. For one, you confront yourself in the first couple of extreme experiences. Have you always been afraid to try new things? Do you ~really~ need a jacket right now, and how much luggage is too much luggage? Are you as adventurous as you think you are? Maybe you’re not. That’s okay. There’s not a scale that you have to measure up to. If anything, your time questioning yourself forces you to be more aware of yourself and your surroundings, and that’s never a bad thing.
Being with yourself in the world is a humbling experience. Of course, you could spend a ton of money and travel luxuriously. While that’s a good time (duh), it’s not the same as a real experience out in the world where things are different and hard and scary. The inconvenience of traveling simply can truly change your perspective of how people live life around the world. Which leads into the next point. Traveling allows you to confront the “other,” the person that you might be afraid of because you don’t understand them. You might say that you aren’t afraid of anyone, you’re not nervous around anyone. While we hope that’s true, there’s always something or someone—and it’s not a bad thing!
It’s just an opportunity to question your own preconceived notions of the world and how it works. Preconceived notions should be torn down, and replaced with informed and educated convictions. The Lord can transform your worry easily. Hopefully, your worry is replaced with concern. You’ll see the hurt, the pain and the grief that’s alive in the world. But God can handle it, and you’re the better off for experiencing it. Better to have encountered pain and grown in empathy than to have never encountered it at all.
And all of this experience of hurt and pain, and the “other” and tearing down our own thoughts and ideas and beauty, comes this thought. This magnificent, incredible, empowering thought.
THIS is our celebration today: “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” Colossians 3:11
No matter our differences, we’re ALL one in Christ. We’ve all died to sin and fought to carry our cross and the Lord loves us the same. That is the beauty of diversity—an equal—opportunity chance for redemption in Jesus.
Jennifer Grubbs, a senior intercultural studies major who did an internship with Food for the Hungry in Uganda, explained her experience of living in another culture and how it brought to light the different and exquisite ways that God builds his church.
“I caught a glimpse of what heaven will be like when I was at church hearing the diverse languages worshiping our Lord,” she said. “It reminded me of how in heaven all the nations will worship together, yet each in their own unique and beautiful way.”
Then, you can confront the full image of the Lord. And by the end of your trip, your experiences will combine to assault whatever previous image you had of the world. You’ll grow in deeper knowledge AND a greater love for the beauty and diversity of our Creator. The differences that reveal themselves as you travel—as you adventure—are nothing short of a miracle.
“Movement and travel have always been part of the Christian experience. So many of the giants of the faith have been travelers — from Abraham (whom God called to “leave your country” … Gen. 12:1) to Paul to the itinerate evangelists of the 19th century. And, of course, there is also Jesus himself, who from birth was a bit of a roving exile, frequently homeless and dependent on the hospitality of others on the routes he traveled. Why is it that the journeying, nomadic lifestyle been such a hallmark of the Christian experience?
In his famous essay, “The Philosophy of Travel,” George Santayana wrote, “There is wisdom in turning as often as possible from the familiar to the unfamiliar: it keeps the mind nimble, it kills prejudice, and it fosters humor.” A Christian might add that it enriches our identification with Christ and draws us closer to his presence by removing status quo comforts.” Brett McCracken
So go! See the world. Do good work for Jesus.
Meet people who love the Lord and worship in a slightly different way. Eat something that you don’t recognize, but just know: it’s delicious. The Lord shows up in diversity, in our differences. And you won’t ever see every side of the Lord’s personality without seeing every side of the world.