History thronged around my senses as I walked the grounds of Ukraine’s Kiev Pechersk Lavra, or Monastery of the Caves. The story of this Eastern Orthodox Christian monastery began in the 11th century when a missionary monk settled in a cave overlooking the Dnieper River, and a community of disciples soon grew. The ancient monastery complex I toured is a World Heritage site and a national historic-cultural preserve. Its architecture and history are impressive but what impacted me more was the sense of the brevity of life in the scope of time.
Entombed in glass and draped in heavy brocade, the remains of long-dead monks rested in the catacombs. The sweet scent of the beeswax candles we carried could not mask centuries of decay. Above ground, we gazed up at elaborate, gold encrusted edifices built by hands long stilled. From a reverential distance we viewed gilded portraits of religious clerics of ages past, our heads respectfully covered.
What thought did I come away with? That we are all sojourners. temporary visitors. No matter what is done for posterity, what mark on history, what preservation of beliefs is attempted, we are all here for a brief span of time.
“Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear unto my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.” (Psalm 39:12 KJV)
If any earthly place of my experience exuded an air of permanence, it was the Pechersk Lavra, historical jewel of Kiev, Ukraine. Citizen of a country less than two centuries old, I had never been exposed to a place so steeped in history. Yet my visit there served to remind me of the biblical truth that all those who walked these caves and hallowed spaces were but sojourners, in spite of their attempts to make an enduring mark.
God has set eternity in the human heart (Eccl. 3:11), an inborn sense that there is more to life than what we experience here on earth. Those who do not have an eternal perspective make every effort to leave their mark on the world they leave so quickly behind. All of us with eternity in our heart will leave this earthly existence for another place, with God or without, making us all sojourners. But those who believe God’s promise of a life to come with Him live according to that sure hope.
“Now therefore you are no more strangers and sojourners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” (Eph. 2:19 KJV)
After seeing many wonderful sights, my sojourn in Ukraine came to an end and I returned to my own home where my family, friends and community welcomed me back to the place I belong. Sojourners know their current reality will end someday and they will move on to a more permanent abode. I want to sojourn well, make good use of my time in light of eternity, but, oh, how I long for my forever home with my Savior!