I always have things I want to share on here, but with a constant mónton of homework and not much access to wifi, my inspiration comes and all I can do is jot some things down, and hope I remember where my mind was going with all of it. So maybe I’ll try to convey some things I’ve been learning/realizing, and we’ll see how it comes out. I might be pretty straight up real, but what else is new? When people travel, the people at home just want to hear that it’s amazing and GOSH like, Europe is so pretty and along with that life becomes Disney Land. And to some extent, there are always a million ways to look at a situation. Disney Land is one, and then there are other, more gritty, human experiences. This is usually the way I see things. However, I’ve been learning a lot about perspective. What a topic.
This past week or so has been, in all reality, quite the rollercoaster. From me getting sick with some sort of stomach bug during my weekend trip to Madrid, to beginning to get over the worst of culture shock, to the amazing opportunities I’ve had to look from the viewpoint of people who are 180 degrees different than me, to learning an incredible amount about myself… a lot has gone on in a short time. My perspective on life has been drastically changing… guess that’s why I’m here, right? 🙂
Have you ever had the overwhelming sense that complaining about circumstances would suddenly solve all your problems? And yet, at the same time, you hate yourself each and every time you utter a negative word or thought? In all honesty, that’s been my last week. I hate complaining, and usually I can censor and stick to the positive. But this past week is probably when I did the most of my complaining (even if a lot of it was just in my head, and came out of my mouth as sarcasm :P). I’ve had to remind myself again and again, comfort is not the be-all, end-all of life. At one point last semester I asked God to break me of my comfort-seeking ways. Friends, He answers prayers!! haha.
Being sick in a foreign country where you don’t understand the living customs isn’t fun. But God has continually been using my dicomfort to show me there is more… I mean, come on right? I have a roof over my head! I am learning Spanish! What an amazing thing! My brain is slowly but surely understanding two separate codes to convey information, and can switch between them with ever-increasing ease! I am not here for my own comfort or, in reality, even my own betterment, but yet so that I can be a blessing to others. I am being bettered, improved, worked-on, chiseled, sancitfied… whatever you want to call it… so that later, I can encourage someone else or love them better. What a crazy thought. Francis Chan says in his book Crazy Love that we are never given anything so that we can hold onto it tightly, keeping it for ourselves. Even our talents, time, money, it is all meant to be passed on. When I remember this, it gives me renewed motivation to learn Spanish with excellence and perseverance instead of frustration. Being able to learn this other language means that there is an incredible amount of people that I can be a blessing to that I never could have before. Not in the same way, at least.
So yes, I’ve been learning to not be a comfort-seeker anymore. Sure, the word hielo (ice) comes to mind each time I walk on the floor of my house without three layers of socks, sit on the toilet seat, or wash my hands. Cold and Jordan are not great friends… let alone ICE cold. 😛 These houses were made for summer, like me. BUT now when I’m cold, I have learned to say “whatever”… I have water and a toilet seat. I can’t choose my food, and maybe it’s not my favorite all the time, but I have food. So, I am slowly losing control, and being broken of my American ways of convenience. The funny thing is, I know this experience is tailored to teach me things, because other members of the group have more comfortable homestay situations. My roommate and I are both learning some lessons I think we both desperately needed to learn. It doesn’t always feel good but when I think about how good God is to refine me, I get excited and everything is okay. What was my prayer for weeks before I came here? To learn more discipline and stop seeking comfort. Aaaaaaand what a specific answer. Slowly but surely, I am learning. 🙂
So I know there’s gonna be at least one person who will read this who will be like, “DUDE, ur in sPaiN… y r u complaining about it being cold or, like, not perfectly awesome?” And that’s a great question. On one hand I want to say, you know what, you are completely right. This is an amazing opportunity. But if there’s one thing I’ve been smacked in the face with, it’s that I have totally idealized pretty buildings and “interesting, rich” culture. I’m an art history major! All I ever do is sit in dark lecture rooms, gaping at the bright powerpoint full of the beauty and culture in the world. I had never sat down and thought about it before, but I think part of me expected that visiting some of that beauty I’d seen on the screen or in my books automatically WOULD feel like Disney, or Hollywood, or something. Sometimes, it does. For about 5 seconds. And then I realize that there are people who walk the streets next to that building or that mountain view every single day, and they don’t feel more fulfilled or more happy because they see more natural beauty than I supposedly do in America. Being in a place with cool architecture and rich culture does not suddenly make life more full of light or somehow more worth living. After the initial thrill of buildings that did not undergo the Industrial Revolution and mobs of people who speak beautiful languages, you realize that there are just as many frustrations in the EU as there are in the US, and the people, while different, lead normal lives. It’s a profound thought, and perhaps obvious, but I’ve never felt so deeply that beauty and fulfillment do not come from your surroundings or novelty, but the people and purpose in your life. The presence of God in your life. Only he can fulfill… I know because the days I don’t spend time in His presence, there’s a deficit. I’m not with people who really know me (yet, at least), so I can’t feel known by them, clearly. I’m not experiencing all the pretty landscapes with my family or my close friends, and I honestly didn’t realize I’d care. But even without them, I get to see it and say, “Lord, you MADE that. And you know this city, even though I don’t. You know each and every person.” While I don’t get to experience it with the people he’s put in my life whom I love, I get to experience it with my Father in heaven. And He is truly, truly enough.
There are always two or more ways to see a situation. You can live with the eyes of faith, or the eyes of fear. I think there have been times when my perspective has slipped into one of fear, or confusion which leads to fear. But this past weekend God showed me a lot of things concerning contentment and perspective. I heard some testimonies that were encouraging. My iPod, which was on shuffle, playes really encouraging songs. I’ve been learning from people here, and just getting over myself. I feel ready to start this next week of classes, this time with the eyes of faith.
Lots of great lessons here. I have more things I’ve been inspired by that I want to share, so I’m gonna try and do smaller more frequent blogs (how many times have I said that..?) 🙂
Lots of love to those at home, thanks for your continued prayers. You are all in my heart with every day, every excursion, every cool building!