Posted in Spirituality

The Day Contentment Died

Fear. A new sensation. They had never felt this way before.

They heard wolves howling in the distance and instinctively knew they were in danger. They found a cave to hide in and waited for morning.
What a different place their world had been just a few short hours previously.
It seemed to make so much sense at the time. Just one bite of the apple and they would be like God. Turns out it was all a lie. That apple had been pure poison, destroying everything they had ever known.
Purity turned to shame.
Trust to blame.
Fellowship to hiding.
The Lord had come walking in the garden, like He did every day. But they could not face standing before Him. They were naked and ashamed, and so they hid.
Their relationship with each other – destroyed.
Their relationship with God – destroyed.
Their relationship with the rest of creation – destroyed.
Their world had been so full of treasure. Every day was full of joy and new discoveries.
And now? Now it was dark, threatening, uncertain.
Yet in the midst of it all, in the midst of darkness and fear, there was a still, small voice telling them there would be new treasures to discover.
Treasures of grace and mercy, of forgiveness. They had a first taste of that when the Lord, full of compassion, made them clothes. Nakedness and shame covered.
He made a promise that one day the power of the snake, the power of lies and deceit, would be broken.
They’d had a first taste but there would be so much more to come.
The poison powerful, invading everything.
Yet the treasure of God’s love more powerful still.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(This text came out of a writing challenge I did with some friends. Three images from Story Cubes, some connection to faith and 20 minutes.)
Thinking about contentment this week, I came back to this story. That day, contentment as Adam & Eve had known it, died. I don’t think contentment was ever straightforward. It was always a choice. When it took a while for a “suitable companion” to be found. When the snake suggested they were lacking and offered more.
Yet there was a purity and an innocence that died that day. Poison invaded the world. New treasures of grace and forgiveness were born. That’s the tension we live in, I live in.
I can celebrate Communion and marvel again at the miracle of a God who loves so deeply and gives so abundantly. Then I step out of church and contentment goes out the window because I have to wait a whole 6 minutes for my train. (I mean, what is the world coming to? Really not acceptable! Yup, I’m absolutely a spoiled Berliner!)
The tension of “holy discontent” because this world is so far from what it was meant to be. And “not so holy” discontent because things don’t work out exactly the way I would like them to.
“Do this in remembrance of me”. Oh how my heart needs to be reminded of love, of forgiveness, of hope. One day, the tension will be no more. In the meantime, I am thankful for the treasures to be found in the midst of the tension.
This post has been linked to Velvet Ashes, an encouraging site for women serving cross-culturally.
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Posted in cross-cultural

Ebb and Flow

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.

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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.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Layers of a City

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.

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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.