The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.
And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
-1 Kings 19: 11-12
Our last night on the trail, Nirmala, our dear and beautiful Nepali guide, shared with us the kind of impression we made on her and the other porters that week. Her words summed up the trip in so many ways.
“The way you all act, you act like you’re a family,” she said. Then, she added, “and when we’re with you, we feel like part of that family too.”
In that moment, I knew we had been part of something very precious…and very eternal.
I understood what Nirmala meant, for there is just something about the feeling of community that speaks to the human heart. It seems like, within all of us, is the desire and hunger to be part of something bigger than ourselves….to belong. And when that’s made real, when love is sincere and hearts are united, there simply may not be a better way to reflect God’s Kingdom Come on earth. Such moments are echoes of things eternal. They’re those times when the things of earth – if only in passing – mingle with those of eternity, when our great and powerful God reaches down from Heaven and speaks right into our very souls.
In Nepal, these echoes cried out to us everywhere. God’s hand was upon us through the sweetness of Christ-centered fellowship and belonging. Even the first night was memorable in this way. We all came together and sang worship songs by candlelight, sipping masala tea; it was so fun, we could hardly stop. And then, we broke out into a Nepali dance party – including porters, travelers, even the restaurant owners.
For me, all of this struck an especially softened chord within my heart. After growing up in a twice-broken family and moving several times, it seems my whole life has been characterized by this pursuit for belonging. And yet these “echoes of eternity” we speak of have simply never been enough. See, the trouble is, echoes will always only be echoes. They don’t satisfy our deepest desires; they simply arouse them, for they were only meant to point us to something greater. As I considered my own heart that night, I was convicted in realizing how many times I have taken to chasing those echoes, trying to fill eternal places with earthly things – even when I know it’s futile.
In the next several mornings, five words from Paul in 2 Corinthians would not leave my mind: Having nothing, yet possessing everything. I thought about them as I leapt over rocks, and as I marched up the steps of our trail. I meditated on them as I crossed streams, and bridges, and waterfalls…very aware of how accurately the words described my life. It’s true, I have nothing I had set out to find. I have nothing I imagined God would bring to show me His love and answer my cry for belonging. I thought it would come in family, or in a hometown, or in a church. I thought He’d speak through stability and long-lasting relationships. Yet none of those things I have claim to today. And as I skipped down the trail, the core of my being knew that somehow it didn’t matter.
There I was, in the mountains of Nepal with a group of people I didn’t even know a year ago…and my heart was so full. There I stood, future unknown and wide open…yet in the firm and steady hands of my Provider. How could I not trust this God, who brings me gifts I don’t even ask for, relationships I don’t expect, joys I never knew of? While nothing tangible can be written beside my name, my great Father has provided for every hope and prayer and need. What am I doing, chasing the echoes, when I know the One who calls?
And somewhere in the middle of the trek, in awestruck surrender, I gave up my pursuit.
Throughout the trip, and even once I got home, that verse stuck with me: having nothing, yet possessing everything. So when I could, I decided to look it up in the Greek; I wanted to see if the verb “having” was any different from the verb “possessing.”
I navigated my way through…Crosswalk.com…Bible study tools…Greek lexicon…2 Corinthians 6:10….
I read about the first verb and how it’s related more to earthly things, things that one could claim or literally hold – whether property, or a marriage, or a state of mind. Then I read about the second verb, “possessing,” which is more active and all about holding back something, or securing something for the long run.
It was all very interesting, but none of that really struck me quite as much as when the page for the word “having” first uploaded. In fact, I blinked twice, a little confused by what I saw before me. For lo and behold, at the top of the page, in big, bold letters was the word…echo.
The Greek word for that verb, “having,” is the word echo. Echo, can you believe it?
And then it all made sense.
The homes and property and earthly wealth? All just another echo.
Marriage? Family? Friendships? Echo. Echo. Echo.
All the things in our hands and those our senses experience. Simply more echoes.
Our final evening in Nepal was spent at a trust home for over 80 orphans, mostly from Tibet. They had no claim to any country, or home, or family. Yet these children knew the love of God and had each experienced His redemptive work in their young lives. I had the crazy and unexpected privilege of sharing my heart with these orphans that night. And of course, what would God have me say but answer the question, “Where do I belong?” As the Spirit-inspired words spilled from my lips, I knew this message was just as much for me as it was for them. And as we sang in worship with these phenomenal children, I even wondered if a “real” home and family could produce such rich and beautiful echoes of eternity.