It's summertime and for many of us that means traveling, vacations, and adventures. It's a time to experience something new, to find refreshment, to rest. It's a time to connect more deeply with family and friends. And, if you're like me, it's a time to get excited about making those vacation plans.
Traveling is one of my favorite pastimes. I love exploring new places, trying new food, and meeting people from different cultures. But like most people, when it comes right down to it, my travels are usually all about me. I plan my trips thinking about all of the benefits I will experience.
This week I'm traveling to Romania with my husband. I lived in Romania during formative years of my life, but it's his first trip to this small and diverse country. At first I felt like it wouldn't be very exciting for me since I've already done many of the things we're planning to do. Sure, I was looking forward to sharing my experiences with him, but I also felt like I wasn't going to get much out of this trip (like I said, my focus was purely self-centered).
But then the Holy Spirit reminded me of trips I've taken in previous years. Each time, I went into those experiences with the same self-centered perspective—but God took me out of my world to show me so much more. Yes, I was refreshed and had many amazing adventures—but God opened my eyes to the beauty of his creation and the beauty of his kingdom.
In my travels in Europe, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and Central America, I have always met believers along the way. These experiences have helped me see God's people with a clearer understanding. I have seen the kingdom of God—the men, women, and children who are living the days ordained for them in their place and time in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. I think of the small churches in Cuba and Honduras that were filled to the brim with joyful worshipers. I think of the Messianic Jewish man I met in Israel who gave us a tour of an archeological dig he was working on, and then encouraged us with the gospel, even as his co-workers were milling about. My own perspective has been profoundly changed by the Christians I've met around the world.
Back in "normal" life at home, it's so easy to get caught up in my daily worries and struggles and to lose the joy of salvation in my life. But when God gives me the opportunity to travel and leave my tiny world for even a short period of time, my heart and mind expand to see how God is working in the lives of people around the globe. Seeing God's powerful work restores the joy of salvation in my life.
Despite our own often self-centered ideas about travel, God often has a different vacation plan in mind: a plan to broaden our view and give us a glimpse of his perspective. A wider look at the world helps us get a better understanding of who God is. We begin to understand that his work of salvation is for all people in all circumstances, and not just for the select few in our community, culture, or country. We realize, afresh, that God's power and grace are sufficient to meet not only our needs, but also the needs of our brothers and sisters around the world. We start to learn more of what it means that God wants us to participate in bringing truth and justice to the men and women he deeply loves.
Like the writer and painter Henry Miller said, "One's destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things." Traveling to different cultures has, each and every time, given me a fresh spiritual perspective of God's work around the world—and in my own life! As I prepare for this next trek to Romania, I look forward to seeing how God will shape and encourage me on this trip. And I pray that I will be an encouragement to those I meet. God is at work—both in my life and in the world! I can't wait to see it more clearly.
Beatrice Rusu Schoenrock is a world traveler and TCW contributor.