The word “travel” has a different meaning for everyone. Some read that word and think of their family’s favorite beach vacation, or the ski resort they went to that one summer in high school. Some think of the Instagram account they follow (and frequently consider unfollowing, but just can’t) with the pictures of the most fantastical places in the world they could only dream of visiting. And then I know there are some who think of long car rides with young kids or perhaps an argumentative sibling, and think it’s not even worth the trouble when they can have a perfectly relaxing staycation instead.
However one might define travel, I have come to learn that our Father has valuable lessons to teach us about the world He has created, if we take the time to see it. For me, these lessons were revealed through overseas travel, but they can just as easily be experienced on some unfamiliar street not far from home. Here are a few of the lessons the Father so graciously opened my eyes to through my adventures:
We live in a wide world.
The more I travel, the more I am amazed at the countless new things there are to experience outside my comfort zone. It can be overwhelming to think about all the different places to explore, the different foods to try, and the different people to meet. But while our world is big, our God is bigger. We can’t wrap our minds around the worlds’ bigness, but we can know the God who created it. When I get overwhelmed with how big our world is, I let it remind me of just how big our God is and just how much He loves each of us.
The world is big, but it is also small.
Walt Disney was really on to something with the enchanting song, “It’s a small world afterall” (which is now going to be stuck in your head all day. You’re welcome!). The more people you meet, the more you realize that everyone is connected in some way. Whether it is through mutual friends, a common passion, or even a similar language, there is always a way to connect.
Not long ago I was meeting with a client who brought along her son to join us. As he and I talked, we realized we had a mutual friend who was in my Arabic class during my semester abroad in the Middle East. Additionally, his own son was now living with the same friend in California, while his daughter and her husband were actually living in the very country in which I had studied and were attending the exact school I attended. Crazy, right? I thought I was going to a routine meeting with a client, but was blessed with a wonderful reminder of how small this world can be.
Differences are beautiful.
The fear of change is one of life’s biggest fears. You have to face this fear head on when traveling, because you are continually challenged by different realities. You may have to change the way you dress, the way you eat, or even the way you talk when experiencing other cultures.
One thing to keep in mind when facing change is that differences are beautiful! During my art studies in college, I learned the importance of contrast. God created our world with stark complexity because He is a God of beauty. He did not create the world in grayscale with simple straight lines and boring shapes. And that is not how He created people either. There is a reason we are not all the same. Sometimes we wish our significant other or best friend could think exactly like us for a moment to better understand how we are feeling, but thank the Lord they are different! Their unique thoughts and opinions bring out things in us that we would have never realized alone. Like the complexity we find in nature, the struggle we face in our contrasting cultures or challenging relationships point us to the beauty of diversity in God’s creation.
Oh, and the church is different too.
This is a big one. Whether you go across the sea, across the country, or across the street, the way people worship God looks different. And, remembering the last lesson, that difference is BEAUTIFUL. I am not talking about theological diversity in an “all roads lead to heaven” kind of way. I am referring to our cultural diversity in the way we worship. I’m talking genuine, Bible-following, Jesus-loving, grace-filled, God-redeemed people who worship and experience God in gloriously different ways.
I have never witnessed a more spirit-filled worship than when I was in Haiti being led by desperate voices who knew what it was to lose absolutely everything, except the God they love. I have never seen someone with such radical faith as when I was in the Middle East with a woman who was rejected by everyone she cared for to follow a man in a dream named Jesus who offered her eternal acceptance. But, it is important to understand that there was nothing more special about the way the Haitians worship that allowed the Holy Spirit to move more vividly, and there was nothing more special about the former Muslim woman that allowed Jesus to enter into her dreams. We have the same Spirit living inside of us, and we follow the same Jesus. The difference is, God moves in different ways for different people. He meets our individual needs in personalized ways, because THAT is how much He loves us!
So, in the course of your life, remember that when people have Jesus in common, they have what is most important in common. Glory in the differences around you and learn to see the beauty in them. Take a trip to the Asian District or the south side and try out a restaurant where the server hardly speaks English, if at all. Look for ways to have conversations with people who are not like you. We live in a wide world full of people who have never heard the name of Jesus, but our God is big and he has equipped us with what we need to carry out His Great Commission:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” - Matthew 28:19-20
I’m curious, what lessons has God taught you through traveling?
Meet the Author!
Tallie Thompson is the daughter of CRBC's senior pastor, Rick Thompson. She is an artist that has a heart for missions and children's ministry and enjoys teaching grade schoolers on Sunday mornings. When she isn't traveling, she enjoys sipping on a cup of coffee with her family and friends in good ol' OKC.