Looking for a city

a sabbath rest, day 8

Every story has a metaphor or many metaphors. But in some sense every story is a metaphor— a representation of some reality we do or do not desire. So as I attempt to tell the story of my sabbatical, there are metaphors that frame the detail I include, and there is one metaphor from which the story itself arises.

Obviously sabbatical is a metaphor, which I have already explored. The reality that frames it is the idea of rest, rooted in ancient Hebrew practice. So, as I tell this story, you might expect me to include details that convey whether I am resting or not. So far, I’m not.

But there is a more important metaphor that will illuminate and constrain my story telling, the metaphor of journey. Like sabbatical, this too, for me, is rooted in biblical imagery, specifically the image of sojourning, seeing the places I go as temporary and transitory. Like Abraham, I am looking for a city, although ultimately, it is not Kathmandu where I hope to live and teach for the next five months. (Still waiting on that visa.)

As Hebrews 13:14 puts it, “here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” I don’t expect Kathmandu to feel like “home,” but then again I don’t expect Horton, Michigan, to feel like home either. Our houses are merely tents, as we look for, and long for, something more permanent and real.

Don’t get me wrong. I want to fully embrace the experience, savoring every spice, celebrating every individual, and learning from every mistake. But these should remind me of an eternal expectation that every tribe and tongue will be represented before the throne of God. And while the individuals I meet are not gods, they each reflect His image, much better than the images of metal, stone or wood that fill their temples. Or my imagination.

Any valuable insights are not rooted in our attachments to certain foods, people, places or images, but in our detachment from them, our ability to stand back and see them for what they represent, not just what they appear to be.

The metaphor of being a sojourner or traveler is instructive for this reason. It keeps us from loving too much things that do not last or do not matter. And it keeps us depending on God and others for strength and sustenance. This metaphor has been central to my story since Katie and I read Adventures in Faith early in our marriage, a book about Abraham by M.R. Dehaan.

In some ways this metaphor explains why I would even want to go to Nepal for my sabbatical, rather than stay in our comfortable but temporary house here with central heat and air and much thicker mattresses. But the more I see the more I learn about what home should look like. As I continue to chronicle this journey, and you wonder why I include some detail and not other detail, know that I am not looking for home, but for things that remind me of a more glorious one.

I’m sure I will feel like a stranger every day, and that’s OK. I am a stranger. But experiencing grace and practicing humility are likely rewards for framing the world in this way.

I hope you will keep reading, to see if I learn anything.

The author is on sabbatical, planning to teach journalism in Kathmandu.

2 thoughts on “Looking for a city”

  1. Thanks for the sabbatical update Wally. I am confident that the Lord will provide visas for you and Katie, and i look forward to your future posts from home and Kathmandu. Love in Christ, John

  2. […] We never imagined all the things we’d do or the places we’d go. We feel blessed and grateful. Not only that, by traveling and spending time in other cultures we are learning to be more forgiving and kind. We are learning to be more thoughtful and more generous. We are learning that different is not wrong. These are things you need to know when you travel. And we are travelers at heart. Pilgrims, actually, longing for our true home. […]

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