Two months ago I wrote about what I’ve learned in my first year of marriage. In that post, I mentioned I’d write about that mini vacation later, not intending to write about it while on another mini vacation this long afterwards. But, here I am on a train, heading back from New York with my parents and younger sister, writing about both my time spent with Andrew in Natural Bridge, and in NYC with my family.
These two trips were practically polar opposites.
Andrew and I went South, my family and I went North.
Andrew and I went to the mountains and open space, my family and I went to the most populous place I have ever been.
They both had their positives and negatives, but each were enjoyed in their own way. Possibly one of the biggest differences I noticed was a cultural one, as I’m sure you can imagine the difference between small town Virginia compared to NYC, but also what was taught in the different places we went.
While in Natural Bridge, the night we arrived we were privileged to get to attend a showing of the Natural Bridge Light Show. It’s a performance that has been put on since the 1930’s, and is a very slow light show that goes along with a reading of Genesis 1. I was amazed that they would still play this Biblical truth despite teaching the bridge was caused by evolution, and considering the fact that the current view of Biblical truth nowadays tends to be obscured in public places like that. Instead, they stuck to the scripture and even played recordings of some hymns that showed how very old the recording was. The soundtrack reminded me of the old movies I love to watch in which everyone speaks a little funny, and the music has that old time feel to it, reminding me of the back track to the animated Cinderella or Snow White.
As they sang “The Lord’s Prayer” and “Holy Holy Holy”, Andrew and I enjoyed our first look at the Natural Bridge, lit up by colorful lights that made it seem much less impressive than it was two days later when we visited it in daylight. Then, in the daylight, we understood the majesty of it all. For people to believe the calm river that lazily flowed beside the walkway could have carved the bridge over millions of years was laughable to me, but viewing the majesty with the thought of the Flood in my mind makes it even more amazing. At some point in time, I believe that was a site where a “fountain of the deep burst forth” and God left his little reminder that he is in control in the form of a natural bridge that was heralded as a gift from the gods to the Native Americans who lived there for years when Lord Dunmore commissioned George Washington to survey it, leading to it being considered for the eighth wonder of the world.
The Native Americans knew it was something special, not simply chance that placed it there, as I firmly believe as well. It reminds me that God took a horrible event, such as the flood, and blessed us all with it now. Without the flood, we wouldn’t have mountains, valleys, and caverns like we do.
Along with our enjoyment of the bridge and surrounding area, we also got to enjoy a Safari Zoo, which included seeing some wolves (my favorite), giraffes up close and personal, and numerous other animals as we rode along on a guided “Safari tour”, complete with buckets of food to feed the animals we saw. After spending the hot morning and early afternoon at the zoo, we decided to go to the nearby caverns to cool off and enjoy even more of God’s handiwork. There was one section of the caverns that was, at least at some point in time, a fault line. We could look up and as far as we could see, there was a crack between the walls around us going up and back past where we were allowed to walk. Seeing God’s creation and the beauty even in what wasn’t part of his original plan for the world reminded me he can make beautiful things even out of the worst situations.
Spending a few days in the city was a different story. Instead of hearing Genesis 1, as we went around the city in a double decker tour bus we heard the history of what man had built there. The history was interesting, and I have no doubt God did work in the construction of that city as well, yet there was also a learning of the racial segregation that caused the city to be laid out the way it is, the movements that were started there that have evolved into something more that may or may not fall in line with Biblical teaching, and the different ways people with wealth and influence used, and still use, their power. While the city may look beautiful from afar at the skyline and especially lit up at night, it reminds me both of the Tower of Babel and Sodom and Gomorrah. Very different from the realization of God’s glory I received two months ago while enjoying the peaceful mountains.
I am unsure what to do with the different information I have to process. I noticed that both situations have had a different effect on me physically and spiritually. I didn’t want to leave the mountains and nature to go back to my life living in town. I enjoyed the brief stay in the city but am very glad to be going back home to the little town I live in. I felt rejuvenated in the mountains, and at times I felt a similar wave of astonishment while exploring New York, but instead of feeling free in such a large place, I felt a little bit of entrapment. Perhaps the city is a place for others to find their freedom, but I find mine in the beauty of God’s creation, in the freedom of my own space where I can connect more fully with my Maker, and away from all the hubbub of city life.
I’m not saying I’ll never go back. I will enjoy it in its place and its time if the opportunity occurs again. Perhaps I can do some heart work in the meantime and determine what it is that unsettled me so about all those people being in one place. Perhaps it’s the introvert in me.
Time in the city makes me realize I enjoy the comforts and the normalcy of my everyday life. The traffic there is overwhelming and I would never be on time to anything. I could sense my anxiety growing higher with every passing minute I spent in the chaos. I’d like to say I would still find the peace God brings me even there in the unsettled hustle, but a part of me doubts it. Perhaps some of us aren’t meant to live in a place like that, maybe we are just meant to pass through it. Or, maybe we are called to go out of our comfort zones at times and do work in places that make us uncomfortable.
I noticed while there that the way people interact with each other differs from the way they interact at home. At home, I can avoid people for days without trying. In a place like New York where you are literally living on top of people, there is no avoiding people.
I struggle at times to find the line between being cautious because of my health and using my health and introverted nature as an excuse to not do the work I’ve been called to do. I struggle with it at times, because no, I am not the sort of person to walk up to someone and strike up a conversation like I was taught to do on Operation Barnabas or at Urban Hope. The thought of having a conversation with a complete stranger totally out of the blue is terrifying past the stage of saying “Hi, how are you?” yet, sometimes I do things without even thinking about it.
While walking through Central Park, I noticed a lady struggling to pick up her cane. Without thinking twice, I asked if she needed help and picked it up within seconds. Perhaps what really matters is meeting the need where and when you see it. Instead of simply trying to converse with someone who is possibly as uncomfortable as I am with the situation, maybe what I need to do is help where I see a need and follow through with it. Maybe God isn’t calling me to become an extrovert who enjoys living in a city, maybe he made me to be right where I am right now, an introvert who ministers by writing more than by speaking.
No matter what my calling is, perhaps I read too much into the times I am supposed to be relaxing, or maybe God is teaching me to find him no matter where I am. It’s probably the second one, and that’s probably a good thing even if sometime it is a little uncomfortable.