But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthly bodies into glorious bodies like His own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which He is putting everything as it should be, under and around Him. Philippians 3:20-21 The Message
The phrase “ex-cosmopolitan” is a term I came up with about ten years ago. (There may even be a few of you out there who know me personally that have heard me use this terminology in my speech from time to time.) While in college searching through photographs for an idea for a painting assignment I discovered this photo taken in Vatican City on a family vacation when I was seventeen.
This photo arrested my attention and while contemplating it the term “Ex-Cosmopolitan” popped into my head. I wasn’t really sure what that meant in the moment- but it sounded cool to me.
The figure in the foreground (myself) has an almost silhouette-like quality. I am a traveler standing strongly in, yet appearing separate from my surroundings. Even in one of the most beautiful and religious cities in the world there are barricades to control traffic and there are distractions (the white car to my right and white clothes figure to my left). The composition is divided in half horizontially by the union on the collonade and the blue sky and in half vertically by my figure (acknowldge implied line from top of head to top of photo). It is a strange composition and photo really, but there is something very pleasing in the many subtle contrasts it contains.
I later looked up the word “cosmopolitan.” Cosmopolitan means belonging to all parts of the world, at home all over the world, a citizen of the world. Slap “ex” in front of “cosmopolitan” and there you have my favorite, no nonsense definition, ex- citizen of this world!
It dawned on me that having accepted the grace of God and being his eternal child that this world is not my home. For me this realization was the beginning of an ongoing experience that began to deeply root this essential truth in my soul. As I explored this concept in the Bible, I found excosmopolitan imagery quite a few times in the New Testament. We are citizens and fellow citizens of Heaven (Phil. 3:20-21, Eph. 2:19), Ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20), Aliens, Pilgrims, Strangers, and Sojourners (1 Peter 2:11, Hebrews 11:13-16). What a cool and true perspective to have about our lives here on Earth!
I love this world. I love big cities and isolated hilltops. I love art- be it paint, song, or living well. I love humans who grasp and surrender and laugh. I love God, the Great Artist, who made this world, fashioned humanity’s sweet intracacy, and who inspires and redeems it in every moment.
From the soft, squishy, green grass of my humid southern Ohio childhood, over the stones, asphalt, and skies that carried me through far flung journeys as a young adult, to where I wait currently with Pike’s Peak views- this world has impressed much.
Yet with all the beauty and emotion this world holds, it too often leaves me undeniably unfulfilled. This crazy beautiful place does not contain everything! There is more! When I experience these….I’ll call them “disconnects” I turn to my Comforter- God the Holy Spirit who flies in from Heaven- a visitor from Home and reminds me that Christ is the ultimate fulfillment for every ache that comes from living in a foreign land- and encourages me that soon enough I will be home. Then I try to see the source of the “disconnect” as a “cultural misunderstanding” and an opportunity for me to connect with my God and His plan for my life.
I never did use the photo or the excosmopolitan concept as a visual artistic expression but I have never forgotten it either. I have been saving it, mulling it around, attempting (often poorly, ok-very poorly) to flesh it out, all the while wondering how it would eventually manifest itself through me. There have been sketches, meditations, and conversations “ex-c”, as I call it for short, has become a theme for me, an anthem I try to sing with my life.
I hope the heart behind my much loved, albeit goofy, made-up phrase is becoming evident to you. My intention for this blog is to begin a conversation with you about beautiful things- everyday experiences, travel stories, helping our children appreciate and create beauty, critiques on art, discussion of whole body worship, and maybe even crazy out-there ideas that are just fun to play with.
I hope as I write and sift through my thoughts and share them with you that I will begin to cultivate a stable and godly perspective about my life as an excosmopolitan in this world. I hope that you find inspiration, connection, and amusement in my words and that in the end something you read or see here will provide a creative connection- a new note in your song of worship to an Almighty, Amazing, Crazy, Awesome, Creative God!
I hope my voice endears itself to you, like the company of an eccentric friend who breezes into your home with her hand dyed silk scarf trailing behind her. When she leaves you don’t know why you promise her that you will drink a tablespoon of olive oil and eat a bar of dark chocolate to cure your ailments, but you do and your heart is light and you know you will taste possibility in that chocolate bar tonight.
Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them. Hebrews 11: 13-16 The Message
I know where my true home is. That knowledge makes me feel empowered to live my life here with more love, more sacrifice, and more grit. I could go back, back to chasing fantasies, back to the quest for perfection, back to having my fighting hands up- protecting my earthly investments of resources, time, and heart, but I am looking for a better place. In my father’s land I am redeemed, immortal, Jesus has won every victory- my patriotism is for Heavenland shouting Glory to God on golden streets!