Fear. A new sensation. They had never felt this way before.
I love being down by the river. It’s exhilirating and calming in equal measure. The constant movement of boats – small ones shuttling people around the port, and huge ones taking containers and goods to the far corners of the earth. The lapping of the waves against the shore. Those predictable patterns of the tide coming in and going out, coming in and going out.
The piers in the picture above float. So when the tide is high, the bridges only have a gentle incline and it’s an easy stroll back to the shore. When the tide is really low, however, they can be pretty steep. Ever changing yet familiar at the same time.
Life so often is like that river. There is crazy rushing around, and there are bigger changes. Just like the tide, there are some familiar patterns anchoring it all. The seasons. The different festivals and holidays we celebrate. The school year.
The beauty of having been around in a place, in a ministry, for a while, is being able to see some of those patterns of ebb and flow. No, the craziness of September and October will not last forever. There will be a different season, when things are slower, maybe even too slow. When the novelty and the excitement wear off, and it can feel like there is not enough water for our (metaphorical) boats to keep moving. Then the tide will come in again. Relationships have grown, we are able to understand more. There is a familiarity that helps us look beyond ourselves. Summer comes around and with it a feeling that the tide is going out. It’s a season of good-byes, as friends, team mates, students, leave. By the end of it, we’re exhausted and ready for a time of quiet and of restoration. Before the tide comes in again and brings with it new team mates, new students, new ideas and ways of doing things.
And so the cycle begins again. Ever changing and yet strangely familiar.
At times, the unusual, the unexpected hits. Sometimes the tide is way too high, nearly flooding the bridge. Business as usual can not continue, our focus needs to be on the crisis, the stressful situation or relationship.
But there is also the beauty of patterns among the many shifts and changes of life.
This post has been linked to Velvet Ashes, an encouraging site for women serving cross-culturally.
So often I walk the streets of this city without really seeing. Everything is familiar, always the same. Until suddenly it is not.
I had enjoyed a wander around one of my favourite craft stores. It’s a cool place, so many fun things to get those creative juices flowing.
As I was leaving, I turned around to take a look back at the façade (which incidentally is pretty funky). That’s when I spotted it. A memorial plaque telling me that on this very spot, there used to stand a synagogue. The building was destroyed during the Reichskristallnacht of November 1938. At my feet, an indication of what likely happened to the people who would have attended the synagogue. Stolpersteine commemorating (what appear to be) three members of the same family, all deported and killed.
A sudden glimpse of the many layers that make up this city. There’s the obvious – the many tourists, the expensive department store, the fun craft shop. Then there is what has gone before. The things we normally don’t see, made visible and brought into the present.
So much else I’m not seeing as I walk through my days. Stories happening in the lives of individuals I encounter. Hidden people, hidden groups, hidden dynamics. Layers upon layers.
I wonder what those layers look like in my apartment, on my street, in my neighbourhood? What’s gone before – what joy, what sadness, what tragedy, what ordinariness? All of it has shaped the place, has shaped who and what we are now.