One of the very few memories that I retain from my childhood is that of a seven year old me looking out the bedroom window of our little house in Hobart Indiana and thrilledly anticipating a change of scenery. That was the year that my family picked up and left everything that we knew and loved and moved to Sarajevo, Bosnia. I don’t know how normal it is for a kid to look forward to moving away from everything they’re familiar with and into an entirely foreign environment but, normal or no, I was that kid.
I’ve relished the idea of traveling, exploring, wandering, adventuring, and learning in far away places for as long as I can remember. My feet get itchy on a whim and beg to be taken down new paths. I followed one of those paths all the way to Northern Ireland two months ago, and as it turns out, it’s a place that seems to have been just waiting to scratch that little itch and to invite me to stay for tea t’boot.
My time thus far at Belfast Bible College has been a menagerie of fulfilled dreams, exceeded expectations, and new beckonings. It’s a small school with only about 40 people living on campus (the rest of the students commute) in two houses (that we call hostels) for the international students including myself. The diversity in the hostels between both age and race is deep and wide. We learn from and challenge each other in manifold ways.
I’ve always loved being a theology student, but I feel as though lately I’ve been able to drink deeply, to fully delight in that submersion in precious Truth that is the essence of theology. I’ve searched harder, reasoned more, and have had time to absorb and inhale, which essentially is what I’m here for.
Leaving Northern Ireland for a week in England over a break in March taught me how much I’ve really come to love this poetic little island always so full of character. After three days in the middle of London, three in Oxford, and one in Bath I felt like a real traveler: sore of foot, thankful to simply have a square meal and a strange bed to rest in, and having seen things that others only ever dream about. Great Britain isn’t dubbed Great without reason. I was appropriately and repeatedly awestruck, and by the time one of the most amazing weeks of my life was over, I was ready to go home to cozy Dunmurry to bury my nose in a book and drink tea in one of those red chairs that your can get lost in if you aren’t careful.
And many miles be still to go…
The two weeks back at college after break found Spring struggling to break through the ever-misty skies of Northern Ireland. Sometimes it feels like the Sea and the Ocean are waging a war over the innocent green island. In the second week, the island took matters into its own hands: the skies cleared and the sun reflected off of the already-vibrant emerald hills. That glorious week left us with memories of meals, music, homework, strolls, volleyball, and even classes outside in the sun whilst the great waters of this world took their combat elsewhere.
“Does life get any better than this?”
As I took to the road again and entered my 16th country on Tuesday, it took a wee bit to convince myself that I’m actually in France, yet another place I’ve always wanted to travel. Paris as Hugo describes it, “…is the ceiling of the human race. He who sees Paris seems to see all history through with skies and constellations in the intervals.” Certainly, Paris is brimming with history, grandeur, and even sacredness. I didn’t really understand veneration until I observed mass within Notre Dame or prayed in the basilica on the top of Montmartre. France willingly offers to lengthen my understanding of humanity, and its Instigator.
Through all of my wanderings thus far, I’ve been reading the story of the Church, both past and present in Europe. I’ve read it in conversations with seasoned missionaries, in ancient stones, in sky-piercing spires, behind glass in museums, in the eight different churches I’ve been to, and in my fellow students.
Yes, it’s been a Grand and a Full two months across the Ocean. Cheers to itchy feet. I’ve become a traveler and a wanderer, and have maybe even explored enough New to last me till the next nudging itch at least. But at the end of this Good Friday in France, it’s not the things I’ve seen or done, or will do that define me. It’s the Rebel Jesus who was a bit of a traveler Himself and who died to perfect and rescue humanity with all its attempts at triumph and glory.