Bedtime avoidance holds a top spot on my kids’ list of favorite pastimes. James and I are continually impressed by their creativity and tactics in eeking out an extra fifteen minutes. Around 11 p.m., our Hollywood-worthy actress and filmmaker bounced onto the love seat in our bedroom with her latest feature vignette. This thirty-second hidden camera expose documented the unexpected secret life of our most reserved child. Candid Camera pales in comparison. Tears streaming, I laughed to the point of an excellent ab workout, resurrecting fond memories of runaway giggles with my own mother. Tickled by something silly, snickers would escalate to pure hysteria. Beat red, nostrils dancing, the corners of her mouth would threaten her forehead, and her laugh lines multiplied. Well on my way to a place of no return, from somewhere deep, uncontrollable laughter would seize my belly. Carried away by one another’s contorted countenances, exhaustion setting in, we’d dab our eyes, breathe deep, and if we were lucky, gain control once more. A lighthearted moment. I smile remembering. Last Thursday would have been her seventieth birthday. She’s been gone eight years. I miss her. Terribly. Yet she lives on in the giggles. Ours, and those shared with my daughters.
A recent memory surfaces in my belly. Schoolwork loomed, distraction knocked, and hysterics answered. Schoolbooks mingled with lunch dishes, and the new laptop hummed silent before us on the kitchen island. A young finger finds the camera icon. It’s Photo Booth. Three familiar faces stare back. Something deep within me stirs. Click…we’re aliens! Another click…we’re Earnest P. “Know what I mean, Vern?” Click. Click. Click. It’s a house of mirrors. Our faces stretch and twist triggering fresh waves of gut-wrenching guffaws. Cares fall away. Only the moment matters. A carefree memory forever etches itself in my gut.
Reading Hebrews chapter eleven, alien images resurface. “By faith (Abraham) lived as an alien in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise” (Heb. 11:9 in the NASB). Grinning, my mind’s eye peers down memory lane. Bug eyes full of wonder stare back from ballooned foreheads. One click returned our features to normal, but we can never be normal again. As children of God, this is not our home. As sons and daughters of a heavenly Father, we are sojourners. By faith, we, like Abraham, live in a foreign land, a strange land belonging to another. John 15:19 says, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” We don’t belong. By faith, we are “heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him” (Jas. 2:5), “looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10 in the NASB). Eyes fixed on an eternal home, how do we survive the meantime? How do we live in the world without becoming part of it? Comfortable. Belonging.
First Peter 2:11 tells us, “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.” What does that look like, Lord? Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:12, “For our boast is this: the testimony of our conscience, that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.” I consider the underlying meaning of the words Paul selected. Simplicity. Haplotēs in the Greek. We are to conduct ourselves with “sincerity, mental honesty; not self seeking, (with) openness of heart manifesting itself by generosity.” And with godly sincerity, so our conduct reflects “the things of God; whatever can in any respect be likened unto God, or resemble Him in any way; (as) God’s representative.” Conduct examined under the Son’s light and found pure. Alien to this world for sure. I linger a bit longer on the Greek meaning of “the testimony of our conscience.” Not our actions. Not our works. Not what is seen with the eye. Rather our motives. The secret attitudes of our hearts. Our thoughts. And our conduct is simply the witness that attests to our conscience, where we glorify God. Or despise Him.
First John 2:15-17 sums up our extraterrestrial existence:
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”
Living in the world without loving the things of the world. Lord, how? “Not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God” (see above). There it is again. Grace. Charis. “The merciful kindness by which God, exerting His holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, and increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of Christian virtues.” He does it in us. And we sojourn. In our promised land today – the abundant life promised by Jesus. Fixing our eyes on our future promised land – eternity with Him.
My husband LOVES a good space flick. From Planet of the Apes, to Alien vs. Predator and Cowboys vs. Aliens, he’s seen them all. Even the ones that never quite made the big screen. The eyes get dreamy. The final frontier beckons. And Hollywood transports him to outer space hours at a time. Try as I might, my avoidance tactics occasionally fail, and I find myself perplexed over the absurdity of it all. It simply makes no sense to me.
Just as we shouldn’t make sense to this world.
Lord, perplex those around us today by making us more wholly Yours,
 Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for haplotēs (Strong's 572)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2012. 22 Jan 2012. <www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm? Strongs=G572&t=NKJV>
 Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for theos (Strong's 2316)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2012. 22 Jan 2012. <www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm? Strongs=G2316&t=NKJV >
 Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for charis (Strong's 5485)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2012. 18 Jan 2012. http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G5485&t=NKJV.