And the name of the city from that time on will be:
THE LORD IS THERE.
It's been 37 years since I went to Brazil as an exchange student. More than a lifetime to some, a mere breath of time to others. To me, it feels like both. Memories, like dusty old postcards, sit on a bookshelf in my library of life. They are faded and worn, dim reflections of friendships and events, people and places. A year of change. A year of growth. A year of unexpected difficulty - adjusting to language, culture, and re-establishing identity.
I kept a journal. I took pictures - slides that also faded - like my memories. More than anything, I remember the feelings... I remember feeling lost, like floating unanchored in a shifting ocean - over my head, unsure of waves and tides. I remember asserting myself in ways that alienated me from the people were trying to welcome me into their home and family. I remember not fitting. I remember thinking that it wasn't my fault - that I was not to blame. Funny me. I was wrong.
Today, I look at my journal from that year and wonder. Events are written out - people's names and places - food, clothes, details. But the important things, the reasons, the explanations, the background and context, those things are missing. Replaced by words like interesting, and different. It's like taking that stack of postcards, faded and frayed, and tossing them into baskets labeled INTERESTING, and DIFFERENT - unreadable, pictures too far gone to see - only random details remain.
It's kind of understandable - my reliance on details years ago. I was surrounded by so many new things - a myriad of the unfamiliar - starting with the very language - I didn't know what was important. So I wrote down everything. Every little thing. Like not seeing the forest for the trees.
Like reading Ezekiel's description of his temple dream. Imagine being presented with a vision so complete that every minute aspect and feature was defined and measured. From the tiniest detail, to the all-encompassing division of the kingdom of Israel - even to the presence of God filling the temple with His Holiness. How could Ezekiel possible determine what was important - what to write - what to describe. So he described it all. Every little thing.
I wonder if he ever looked back, if he ever tried to find the thing - the one thing - the meaning of it all. I wonder if he had baskets labeled interesting, or different. I wish I could talk to this man with the sci-fi visions. I think he wrote the forest - maybe he didn't even know. He used 7721 words to describe this vision. At the end, four words count the most. Seven thousand, seven hundred twenty-one trees comes down to one forest - THE LORD IS THERE. Always. Period.
God, help us to see the forest for the trees.
Help us to know your presence with us.