The balcony is higher than I remember. Across the lake, the Toronto cityscape merges with the parks and green trees surrounding my new home. About five feet from the railing a tall pine extends its branches just past the eighth floor. A redwing blackbird flashes to the top of its limbs and sings before darting away, diving into the air currents and fluttering to another tree farther down.
For the first time in nearly two years I am alone. No sounds of my housemates getting up for work or getting breakfast or early morning chatter; just the distant hum of the highway and the quiet echoes of my coffee percolating in the kitchen. It’s strange, and in some ways welcome, this quietness, this sense of distance. There is sadness there, however, and it surprises me. After two years, my life has been irrevocably changed by my housemates and friends, and my ideas about community and privacy have as well.
I head to the kitchen to pour my morning coffee. The apartment is filled with boxes and a few scattered furniture items, and my sandals slap against the hardwood floor. With a bit of digging I find a mug and manage to pour myself the all important first cup of the day. It is hard not to think about what changes have come, and the changes that will soon ensue. For today though, I am lost in the memories of my move to Toronto two years ago, of my first meeting with my housemates, my first experience of living in community, and the way the many nights and long conversations on the stoop have changed me and challenged me.
I’m back outside, and I can hear my neighbor rattling around on the balcony next door. Somehow it reassures me, and I smile into my cup even as I thank God for the past week. Of all the things I’ve learned these past two years, perhaps the most poignant is that it isn’t enough to simply say you believe something. It’s fine to talk about the “rightness” of your religion, but it’s more important to chat with someone outside your faith – not because you want to evangelize them – but just because you want to hear their story. It’s fine to talk about issues, but not unless we’ve met the people who believe other than we do. The older I get, the less sure I am about many things, including my faith. The pathway to God seems murkier, especially when trying to steer through the natural prejudices of my culture and upbringing.
What makes it so ironic is that the times I feel closest to God are the times I confess my struggles. Times like this morning when I sit and chat with a God I long to serve and know, and One whom I respect enough to realize I may have it all wrong. Jesus has long been my hero, but in rational terms, there is nothing really concrete about my faith. I can’t prove it to you or hand you a lab test or logically convince you that I am right, if only because I may be wrong. I may be completely off about the whole idea of creation and loving Creator. What I do know, however, is that in building relationships with the people around me, in opening my ears and eyes to hear their story, I sense the imprint of a loving God in them, and that is what stirs me to pray. It is what stirs me to love better and more, and try harder at putting my ‘self’ to the side more often. My housemates helped teach me that, and I will do my best not to forget those lessons.
I stare out across lake to the city, until my gaze flickers at the two crows circling upward in draft, their wings wide, heads high, before diving back down towards the ground. The sound of morning traffic reaches up to the balcony, and it is with a contented sigh that I sip my coffee and look down at the world below.
Change can be difficult, but as I’ve learned, it is the one thing that helps us to grow in both understanding and wonder at the life around us. I’ll miss my housemates, but as in all things, it is time to move on.
My prayer this week is that you would embrace the changes inevitable in life, that you would hear God’s voice amidst the questions of your everyday journey, and that you would find both joy and peace, and perhaps a little conversation amidst all of life’s struggles and hardships.
This blog is dedicated to Szymon, Nads, Keti, Tika, Nemo, Hanz, Didi, Ashley, Mitoki, Yuca, and Eriko