It’s weird to think that mosquitos are carnivores. They suck more blood than Dracula ever did. I hate mosquitos. Every night my roommate and I purge our room before going to sleep only to find fresh and itchy dime-sized welts on our skin the next morning. No matter how I am covered by blankets, the pesky demons always find a way to make me pay for being so sweet. I guess that’s the upside: my sweetness has been proven. The downside is that our room holds every mark of a battleground: our walls display mosquito-sized black marks decorated with maligned wings, small bouts of dried blood, and goop-covered appendages. We don’t remove the mosquitos we kill as a warning for those who are bold enough to enter. We exercise no mercy towards these terrible pests.
Despite the exaggerated melodrama that is my nightly killing spree routine, Greece has treated me well. Its food, people, and sites have yet to disappoint. This week I travelled all over the Peloponnese and the weekend before I found myself in Ionnina, Meteora, and Metsovo. The mountain-lain beaches along the Peloponnesian coast are stunning; the mountain range at Meteora is one of the most breathtaking natural sites I have ever beheld.
I will withhold from telling you all about these trips because this post could quickly turn into a small e-book and I am not endorsed by Kindle. If you want, browse though the pictures I have posted on Google Photos to piece together this week’s adventures (accessible by the top-right toolbar). I will however tell you a brief story about the most interesting lunch conversation I have had in a while.
It starts with a woman named Anthi. Anthi is in charge of administration at my school and is an important tool for those who need ideas for day-trips or do not know how to get places (aka everyone). Anthi also gives out laundry tokens. Everybody likes Anthi. On our trip, Anthi was in charge of making sure we adhered to our itinerary without accidentally leaving people behind. She would always count thirty-three heads before giving the bus driver the okay to bounce and maintained a perfect track record throughout the trip. Anthi can count very quickly, which is impressive given that the majority of Greek numbers are 3+ syllables long. She sometimes sounded like an auctioneer.
Our itinerary called for a picnic lunch so we pulled the bus into a nearby port overlooking the Sea and began eating. Many played soccer, some sat on the edge of the port to eat, but Anthi watched the soccer game. I sat next to Anthi and asked her if she ever played sports. After some light conversation, Anthi threw a curveball that unknowingly contained the greatest piece of encouragement I have received all semester:
“Justin, I’ve been watching you,” (Strange glance from me). “Not just you but everybody, but especially you. I think you belong somewhere else.” (More strange glances). “I don’t mean Greece or this program, but I mean this planet. It’s clear to me that this planet is not your home” (I’m starting to track; ‘What do you mean?’). “Well, it’s very clear. The way you observe and are interested in Greece, how you listen to your professors and other students. It’s clear. It’s easy to tell; you stand out from the group. You don’t belong.”
Anthi, in her own words, is ‘not religious,’ but her remarks come straight from 1 Pet 1:11-12. Peter urges his eclectic audience in these verses to live as foreigners and exiles of this earth because their inheritance and citizenship lies somewhere else. This means living with confidence that you have found your identity and satisfaction apart from the world. This means that you live with the knowledge that nothing on this earth can satisfy you fully. C.S. Lewis alludes to this idea in his book Mere Christianity where he mentions that his own desires are evidence of his otherworldliness: “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” I shared this quote with Anthi and she smiled with relief. I knew what she was talking about, what she meant about feeling an attachment to a different place. I confirmed her postulation and she was glad. And the conversation grew thicker when Anthi mentioned that she feels this as well. She doesn’t know where she belongs or where her real home is, but it’s clear that this earth doesn’t cut it. So many times it promises to follow through, but fails in the delivery. There Anthi and I were: two aliens, sitting with the Sea at our backs, watching soccer as I crunched on potato chips.
Extraterrestrial literally means ‘beyond earth.’ This may sound strangely fantastical or even mystical, but this describes us all. Yes, we are bound to the earth and even called to live in it, but Jesus makes it clear that we are not supposed to live among it. All people are urged to look away from fallen earth and the things within it for happiness and towards a God who gives complete satisfaction. Once you look towards this, you never look back. You don’t need to. And just like purging your room from dreadful mosquitos, you fight off everything that tries to steal your attention. You may get bitten and you may never identify the mosquito that bites you, but that doesn’t mean you stop the battle. It doesn’t mean you dwell on the bites either. Address them and keep fighting.
Anthi reminded me that observing, listening, and showing interest in people has a profound impact. It enables them to see the love I have been shown along with the otherworldly aspect of that love. I guess when you have eternity in sight, it’s apparent that you have eternity in sight. This love, Jesus’ love, is not of this world.