It felt like a cabin, but its location just outside the flow of Gatlinburg tourist traffic kept it more in the “hotel” category. A river ran between the street and the little back porch of our hotel-cabin, its water running over rocks and drowning out most of the traffic noise. It was a snug little place, cozy and functional, with wood paneling and 1970s-orange carpet and homemade doughnuts delivered to our door every morning.
And I loved that porch by the river. The weather was perfect for sitting out there, and the noise of the water drowned out most of the car traffic. I could have stayed there forever.
But that wasn’t the point.
The Traveler’s Life
“Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns,” C.S. Lewis wrote, “but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.” As blood-bought, redeemed children of God, our home is Heaven, and an “inn” is anywhere God leads us to while we are here—temporarily—on this earth. Our homes are inns. Our workplaces. In some ways, our churches are, too.
Like a hotel that provides clean sheets and endless bagels, the inns we find in life could be any season or area of life where we find comfort. A friend’s house. A time in life with more free time. The city or town we live in—or just moved away from. Some inns provide the basics while others add the swimming pool and the game room and the tiny little snack store by the check-in counter.
But either way, they have a purpose. A temporary purpose.
We may only be here for a little while, but let’s not miss that: we are here for a little while.
Times of Rest
Our stops along the way are not the destination and not the goal, but they are still important. No racecar will win a race without a few pit stops, and it is these times of rest and refreshment that are often exactly what we need to keep running our own races.
It could be a 1970s-decorated cabin by a river. It could be visiting relatives, or a weekend trip to a city we’ve never visited before and where nobody knows our name.
Our Father remembers that we need times of rest, and He loves to give His children good gifts (Matthew 7:11). That’s what these times are: gifts. Opportunities to find encouragement and energy to get back in the race.
And sometimes we will find these inns are part of the race itself.
Times of Work
Whatever inn we find ourselves in right now, we can be certain God planned for us to be here. Often we find rest, and other times we are surprised to find more work than we expected. After all, we were expecting a hotel with room service.
But it just might be that someone in the room next door—or down the street, or next to you on the airplane, or working side-by-side with you forty hours every week—was placed close to you because you have been given the answer to their deepest need and the time to share it. it could be that the annoying guy or the quiet lady you noticed on your way to work need to hear the Gospel. Need you to pray for them. Need you to welcome them into your home. Need you.
Only through the work of God can we find this ironically true: the very place where we find more work and more responsibility can also be where we find deeper rest.
“Martha, you are worried about many things,” Jesus told her as she hurried around, trying to prepare the perfect evening in her own strength (Luke 10:40-42). But when we sit at Jesus’ feet, learning from Him and trusting Him with the details we aren’t getting done right now, we will find the strength—and the time—to do what is needed. It may not be everything on our list, but His plan will be done.
Don’t Confuse Them for Home
We will stay at some inns longer than others. There will be some we wish we could stay in for much longer, and others we are ready to leave before it’s time.
As C.S. Lewis reminds us, they are inns—not our home. We are visiting, fully and freely enjoying them as gifts and utilizing them as opportunities, but not expecting to stay there forever. We are just passing through.
We have a better home elsewhere. One we will never have to leave.