|||||trying to self-reconcile||]|
|||||paul simon 'peace like a river'||]|
i have two very different postcards on my desk together. both came from the same country, having the same square shape, and same windmill watermark behind the area where you're supposed to write your message to your beloved. both represent significant parts of this past month of my life. but look with me:
one is a peaceful blue and green scene, with a deep glass-topped river winding between fringes of verdant reeds and grass fields. a miniature father and son sit in a tiny canoe upstream drinking in the daylight, and three model windmills gently jut into the slightly-cloud-strewn pure-blue sky-dome. greetings from holland, it says. this postcard represents the place where, almost four weeks ago, i spent a week at a conference center in the countryside, hanging out with youth from all over the world, singing songs with them and doing jumping jacks with them and talking with them and running around fields and through forests with them and eating meals with them and learning about how our cross-cultural lifestyles have shaped us and how our Creator-Lover-Counselor can use both our struggles and our strengths to shape the rest of our lives and to shape the world around us in beautiful ways...and finally saying goodbye to them. all those memories dredged up by a little postcard...
so here, let's look at the next one. a frenetic display of red and yellow and brown, with a straight and shallow canal bordered by soot-stained brick walls. street lamps line the cement lip of the walls and reflect their bright gold bulbs in the blackish-brackish water. glimpses of a sickly green sheen tremble from the leaves of trees planted between lanterns. originally-white cars parked along the edge of the street take on the red tint that comes from every window of the solid fort-like garrison of tall storefronts facing the canal. an arching bridge straight ahead is hung with fire-orange lights, reflecting in the water to show two parallel lines of jagged-dagger flames. red.red.red. just oozes out of every pore and clings to everything. greetings from amsterdam redlight district, it says. this postcard represents the week that i spent post-conference with a small group of my peers and friends, exploring the city as well as probing our own hearts and experiences of leadership and failure and grace and such, and sharing meals and drinks and trains and trams and museum passes and canal cruises and hippie-market-adventures and history and spiritual mysteries and showers and bunkbeds and clothes and thoughts and farts and songs and dreams, and chilling in the church and apartment and favorite cafe of an awe-inspiring woman who has worked her whole life in the hurt-filled, heart-endangering, yet hope-overflowing business of loving prostitutes and helping them to be safe and avoid exploitation and eventually to heal and envision new directions and to make those come alive...and walking under star-studded skies through those very pain-filled streets of sexual brokenness, and standing still in a circle on a corner just speaking up open-eyed to our Healer-Hope-Peace out of compassion for the people around us searching for satisfaction in such desperate and destructive ways, as well as sadness for the darkness and lack of true love to be found in our own hearts, as well as hope for the efforts going on even now to stop human trafficking and to serve and shelter and befriend those who frequent that area...and hoping to 'find our own amsterdams', and sleeping together one last night, and missing flights for a purpose, and finally...again...saying goodbye.
here's what still captures my mind-heart-imagination about that second postcard, about those streets where we prayerfully walked:
next to each other. across the canal, our lovely friend pointed. the building on the left was decked out in neon red lights, a huge overhanging marquee flashing its attractions of the night. the most notorious sex club in amsterdam's red light district, she said. but look - the building on the right - a humble, narrow brick apartment, with soft lights glowing through the windows. who lives there? we wonder. people who love Christ, she says. a community-family of people who are committed to living in the midst of that neighborhood where so much mind-blowing inner brokenness wanders around and dances in windows and stumbles drunkenly and clutches briefcases and sweats and steals and smiles and laughs and kisses and pays and collects money and curls up in a corner...yet there are people who are equally broken, who are simply grateful for the infinite grace that is given to them every day, every hour...people who are compelled, because of how deeply they have been loved, to love others who are broken...to live among them, to pray for them, to offer refuge and rest for them, and...i really don't even know what else they do, but they love the one who Is Love, and they do what Love leads them to do.
a few wisdom-wrinkled men have written statements to this effect, that true love, or being true friends, means not that we gaze at each other, but we look together in the same direction. we walk next to each other. it helps me, too, within my own life, to look at two very diverse experiences side by side, to acknowledge that they happened directly next to each other in one larger chunk of time along my personal journey, and to consider how they might complement each other to teach me some more holistic lessons that could not be revealed through just one or the other alone, and to come to some (always-in-process) conclusions about how to move forward in light of these insights. right now... i have no insights about these images that are worth saying yet. i just have the plain, raw, physical-eye-sights that i have described, and more that i couldn't put into words, and i have the mushy-avocado-mulch of my memories of conversations and ideas that grew and stewed between those of us who witnessed these things together - side by side - next to each other.
and now what? i'm back at school, living next to over a thousand other human beings who have had very different experiences and very little knowledge of what i've seen, for the most part. and that's okay. that's part of the mystery and adventure, discovering the vast variety of personalities and perspectives and stories that pass us on the sidewalks and sit next to us in class and brush up against us in the dining hall and sleep in the rooms down the hall and work in the offices, behind the desks and counters and mops and vacuums and mailboxes...there is more. there is a drama going on behind every pair of eyes. i want to speak more questions than answers. i want to seek to understand more than trying to be understood. to love more than to be loved. all that stuff St. Francis said. i do want to know people deeply, to be able to face them and give and receive grace and peace in abundance...but also i suppose i must be able to accept that sometimes in order to move forward together, we have to simply live in peace together, looking in the same direction instead of trying to dig into each other's spaces of alone-ness. [is this true? i don't know. but it sounds good. maybe i just say it to assuage my fear of letting people get to know me deeply? my fear of not loving well that is so often triggered by not speaking well, not communicating well...maybe i do say it out of some of that deep-seated fear. but maybe it's true, too...] because i do think that we must protect each other's essential solitude, the cocoons and incubators we must enter into with only our invisible God as company, so that we may emerge new people, with fresh courage and joy and humility. and then we must encounter and engage with people so that we use these gifts to bless others and allow them to bless and challenge us and be agents of change in our spirits, too. balance, balance, balance...we must help each other in this endeavor, so that we may be known for the way we love each other as we live...next to each other.
~~~in process!~~~and in peace~~~