I've been in London now for around a week and a half. In that span of time, a lot has happened. I've seen a lot, met a lot, eaten a lot, and still have a lot to do. It's a strange thing, time, because it can be so long and so short at the same time. I feel as if I've been here for a year, but also feel like I never stepped off the plane.
To be honest, though, it hasn't been all tea and biscuits over here. Menial tasks grow into mountains, and the most trivial, brainless functions have been harder to navigate than a corn maze in the dark. (See my Indiana reference there?) The other day, with 18% battery left and somewhat lost somewhere near Baker Street, I went into a Starbucks to find a restroom. American things are like safety blankets here sometimes, but Starbucks isn't quite warm enough for me to forsake the myriad of Shangri La-esque coffee roasters on every corner to buy an Americano. I mean, seriously, the streets are paved with espresso here. Needless to say, however, I was happy to see them.
I finally found their restroom, and, upon entering, discovered a curious red string with red handles set intermittently on it hanging from the ceiling. Naturally, as I had know idea what it was or what it did, I pulled it. After being met with a shrill alarm that sounded throughout the Starbucks, I was out the door in a split second. On my way out, I saw two Starbucks employees rushing flustered towards the restroom I had just been in.
Out on the street again, I spent the next twenty minutes trying to find WiFi and wondering, "Why am I having so much trouble with the train? The credit card? The agonizing amount of lostness? What on earth was that red string for?"
Hedonism sets in sometimes, as certain as the tide or the sunrise. I compensate for my insecurity with being securely set in a TV show or movie. My sense of adventure creeps into my wallet every time I see a duck sandwich, and London certainly has no shortage of opportunities for extravagant spending. Who ever even knew that juice bars existed, or that a 12 oz. ginger, lemon & lime drink only cost £8.75?
In difficulty and frustration, it's easy to become discouraged and dissatisfied. I would be lying if I said it wasn't hard to step into new environments like these, ones that look similar to familiar contexts from the street view, but contain the most foreign of feelings and senses inside. It's stretching, straining & confusing. Sometimes I wish for a world without people, or one that is at least more easy to understand. Why do we do what we do? Why are we here? Why is it so difficult? Who are we? Why does the price tag for Wisdom say, "pain?"
When entering into new spaces, the natural inclination is to want to be accepted, to be the best, be talked about as the best, viewed as the best. In the smallest ways, I cry out for approval and admiration. I want the surety of love.
"My blue bucket of gold,
Friend, why don't you love me?
...Raise your right hand,
Tell me you want me in your life."
- Sufjan Stevens, Blue Bucket of Gold
Inside, I sometimes feel the hopelessness and Existentialism in the resounding words of Paul in Romans 7: "Wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death?[!]" And of dissatisfaction, disillusion and disenchantment. The cold, ending truth is that, in myself and in yourself, there is no hope.
In the midst of the shadows, though, a light shines separatingly bright and marvelous. Breaking through a thousand barriers and a million second thoughts, the Force of Grace comes through to broken hearts with a soft, promising "I Am." Love manages to meet my sad & cold heart, one that has been humbled, and gladdened in inability, as well as God's characteristic sameness.
"For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear,
but you have received the spirit of adoptions of sons,
by whom we cry, 'Abba! Father!'"
Paul wrote a Romans 8, which means that true Identity is not in the shortcomings, but the love to be found in the midst of them. I can't make a latte as well as I thought I could, and my people skills aren't nearly as glamorous as I imagine them to be. But that's not what defines me anymore, thank God. I never quite realized why some call God the Advocate until now.
Navigating relationships, skills, who we are and who God is not like the clean cut country roads back home. There are no assuring, concrete & certain 3 mile block roads set at the same width and direction. Life is more like the winding, cobblestone streets here, or like the London Underground. Sometimes Siri will not take you where you think you're going, and you may have to ride the train around aimlessly at 11:30 at night, trying to find your stop.
In the time I've had here, I've been humbled beyond description. I'm embarrassed frequently, and probably seem like a total idiot to most around me. At the end of the day, though, a deep breath and calmness is to be had, and perhaps a chuckle or two. It feels good, after having seated myself at the head of every table I can find, to finally listen to the suggestion, "When you are invited, go and sit at the lowest place." Frantic advance and unparalleled competition to reach the top is tiring, but sitting at the feet of a Teacher, grasping His robe, seeing Love is so much more satisfying.
Why does God have me in London? To love Him and to love people. In the midst of the hurried noise, a quiet voice says, "Remain."