The Privilege of Going
I’m writing this as I sit in the Detroit airport, hours before flying to Los Angeles in order to fly from there on to Sidney, Australia. My travel won’t end there. My destination is Auckland, New Zealand, which will require three and a half additional hours of flying beyond Sidney. Twenty-five hours in the air in all.
I was contemplating this on the flight from Nashville, the first leg of this lengthy trek, and I had a wave of gratitude wash over me. It made me smile because I have felt it before. It is a deep, almost giddy sense of gratitude that I get to go—not just to New Zealand, but go abroad to the nations of the world. What am I doing? Oh, what I always do. I’m speaking, I’m teaching, I’m consulting, and I’m strategizing. But what I’m grateful for is that I simply get to go.
I’ve traveled a great deal in my life and most of my travel abroad has been for the sake of serving others. True, I’ve had the glorious vacation or the astonishing research trip. But most of my travel has had to do with Christian missions or benevolent work or helping leaders elsewhere achieve a transforming impact on their land. Often, as I start off, I feel a kind of ancient thrill, a kind of urgent sense of gratitude that I have the privilege of going.
I suppose I feel this for several reasons. First, I’m a Christian who tries to live according the counsel of the Bible. One of the standing commands for Christians is this: “Go.” Go from your home, your tribe, the familiar and the comfortable and, once there, do God’s will. I guess I feel this wave of joy and gratitude because I get to fulfill this commission as a large part of my life’s work.
I’m certain I feel this also because I am an American. The founding fathers of our land, most of them men and women of Christian faith themselves, said they came to this New World “for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith.” They wanted to be “stepping stones of the light of Christ” to build a new society that would in turn be a “City upon a Hill” for the nations of the world. Always, they had the good of other nations on their minds and this is confirmed through the centuries of our history by the many ways and many seasons in which Americans lived out the best of their heritage by going: going to preach, going to fight, going to heal, going to build. This is who we are, what we are called to do, and an American should always utter a prayer of gratitude when he prepares to leave American soil. Going—and by this I mean going to do good—is in our best tradition.
Finally, I go for a reason Americans ought to embrace more broadly. I go to learn. It is common for Americans to say that we live in the greatest country in the world. I don’t agree. I think we live in one of the most blessed countries of the world and this allows us to be among a family of great nations on earth. So, when I go abroad, I learn. I am exposed to ideas and customs and stories I’ve never encountered before. I’ve sat with Arab men in Syria and Masai warriors in Kenya and Peshmerga guerrillas in Iraq and arguing shopkeepers in Scotland and always I have learned and been enriched.
So, I’m grateful today. Not because I had to roll out of a warm bed this morning and leave my beautiful wife and haul myself to the other side of the world. I’m grateful because I get to go and touch lives and learn and, perhaps, feel God’s pleasure as I do.
I’m grateful. And I’m going now... .
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