With a few hours to kill while waiting for the Canadian consulate to do its thing, I went for a nice stroll through downtown Seattle. Something about the city, the people, the traffic, the pace of life, makes me walk faster, even if I don't have anywhere to go, like today. Head up, be aware of your surroundings, look like you have a destination, be relaxed but ready for anything -- "condition yellow", I suppose.
Sitting here alone at a small park next to the aquarium, I pause and take in the beautiful coloured glass-steel-stone highrises (there's the 1201 3rd building again!), the low roar of the Alaskan Way Viaduct (the black double-decker freeway across the middle), the chill in the air, and the salt sea smell of Elliott Bay. Watching a group of joggers go by reminds me of what it's like to live in the city: to work and play and love and struggle, all within the microcosm and forced confluence of people that is the city. I realize that it really has been a long time: I've grown used to the slower pace of life and relaxed, trusting environment in a smaller town. I feel similarly about downtown Vancouver, and I also feel similarly about NYC: it's exciting and international and I love to visit, but I don't think I could sustain living there for an extended time. Maybe I'm a small-town boy at heart, or maybe I'm just mellowing with age.... :)
Ever since I moved two years ago, numerous people (both Canadians and Americans!) have asked me why I'm here -- why would an American choose to live in Canada? Why move back to a big city? Why move to a city where I have no relatives, no established network, and all my friends are new within the last two years? Am I here to make money? (nope) To run away from something? (nada) To find a life mate? (perhaps) I'm still not totally sure why I'm here, but I know that I have been drawn back inexplicably to the Pacific NW for a reason, and, I trust, in God's Providence. Seattle will always be my hometown, but Vancouver is like a sister city, with a character of its own, and I've had high hopes for the Chinese Christian community there. Who knows but I might end up moving back to Western Washington sometime in the future to raise a family (ha, like I could afford to buy a house in greater Seattle!). But for right now I'm settled where God has placed me, and Vancouver has grown dear to my heart. Not, I suppose, because of any innate merit of its own, not because I had a list of criteria and it satisfied all of them, but simply by choice. I'm here, I've developed relationships, I've grown fond -- just because I *chose*.
Hmm, in a way it's similar to why I'm at my church. People ask me, "what made you choose VCAC?", as though I had been ranking the churches I've visited, and somehow VCAC came out on top. But the very reason why I was visiting different churches (and why I continue to network with them) is because it is nonsensical to rate or compare them -- they each have their own network of unsaved people they can reach, and there's no point in comparing churches. As long as we're sticking to the Word of God and proclaiming the gospel, we're all on the same team, here. We're notcompetitors, but collaborators. The idea of "ranking" churches only buys into the consumer mentality that so many ABC/CBC young adults have towards church. I didn't have a list of criteria, and there is no one "best" church: I simply made a choice, and I'm sticking with it, for better or worse.
There is a small white pebble that I carry around in my inner coat pocket; I picked it up on Semiahmoo beach last summer. It's not a supertitious "magic crystal" or anything, but I carry it with me and fidget with it every now and again, and it reminds me of that prayer time I had when I was walking on that beach. There's absolutely nothing special about this pebble in and of itself, but it carries special significance for me, simply because I chose it -- I impart significance to it.
Many years ago when I had opportunity to teach a high-school girls' Sunday school class, I gave each one of them a small white bougainvillea blossom for Easter. One girl's flower fell apart, and I figured it's no big deal; there are plenty more on the bushes just outside. But she replied, "no, it's not the same; this one was given by you". I think our Heavenly Father looks at us the same way: we have value, beauty, and significance, not because of any skill or achievement in ourselves, but because we are chosen by the King.
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy.(Titus 3:4-5a, NIV)