"And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching."
- Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)
I am back in the land of salted roads, bitter cold, and friendly English speakers. While this is home, I have to say, I miss Madrid a lot. First of all, it's warm and sunny in Madrid. Second of all, the public transportation is much better and the drinks are far cheaper there. And third of all, I miss the friends and community I had established for myself there, even it was just for 2 months. It was super great. And I miss it (click through see all the good faces my intern friends can make).
But I'm home! And home is wonderful too. Seeing my friends and family has reminded me of why I was I was so sad to leave at the beginning of my adventures. But anyways, this will be my last sort of blogpost chronicling my goings-on in Madrid, kind of a conclusion to my time there.
Really, I didn't do all that much the final two weeks. That said, most of the time that I did spend I spent either in solitude or with friends, which was top notch. The solitude was brought on from having my flat all to myself, which I used to cook, to listen to music, to watch Lost, and just relax. Having your own pad is super swell. The final week I was there I got a flatmate named Thibaud (he's from Paris) who was very cool, but I have to admit, but the comfort of having a place all your own was something I very much enjoyed. Spending time with friends was the other part, and that included my intern friends as well as some cool peeps I met through my friend Natalie at church, an unexpected blessing. Altogether, I spent times laughing, dancing and drinking with these friends and just having the most wonderful time. Although count me out of future pub crawls. Not my scene friends. Although the Spanish music was lit.
I ended my trip with some time in Barcelona, which was a good time. I think I still like Madrid more, but that probably has more to do with the people I know there and the memories I have there. Nonetheless, I got to see some cool things, like a random concert in the hip neighbourhood of La Gràcia, climb vast heights to see Gaudi's work in Park Güell and to look over the city from Castell de Montejuïc, and eat a great burger in the La Raval neighbourhood. Plus, I documented it all on my Instagram story which was a blast; I felt like some cool vlogger.
And then, on Tuesday, I flew three times, from Barcelona to Madrid, from Madrid to London, and then from London to Toronto. And then I was home. It felt a bit anticlimactic in all honesty, to go from the heights of exploration in Europe to the same old Toronto, where everything had just kept going in much the same way as I'd left it. It truly was like waking up from a dream I wish could've kept going. The only thing that would have made it better was having Sarah and my friends join me in that dream instead of having to wake up and get back to normal life.
But, it's done. I can't wait to travel again, but it's time to take what I learned in Madrid and make sure I don't forget it, and continue to live my life in light of my experiences across the pond.
All that said, being home makes it incredibly hard to write in this blog again. I mean, who wants to read this when I'm not longer in cool exotic places? Why would I want to write anything when I'm not in cool exotic places?
Whatever. Writing has to become a discipline for me, something I need to continue honing and fixing and getting better at. And the only way to do that is to write whether I feel like it or not.
The last thing I had really wanted to write about involved my last time at the young adults group at the church I attended in Madrid, the International Church of Madrid. It was a continuation of a message series on relationships, which is always an adventure. Let me be the first to tell you now, for any non-Christians reading this, that young Christians and relationships have an awkward relationship akin to a junior high dance with the boys and the girls are on separate walls, unsure of how to approach the other. We've been fed all sorts of things in church from courtship (see I Kissed Dating Goodbye *throws up*) to awkward sex talks in youth group of just how hot and amazing sex is once you're married, that stand in vast contrast to the sexualized music, movies and shows that we consume either by watching them or by simply being surrounded by it. This contrast is characterized by the treatment of sex as holy in church circles, and casual out of it. It's also characterized by silence by the church on the wide range of sexual issues and widespread acceptance and dialogue on sexual issues outside of the church. It's literally two different worlds, that I think still need to come together in an honest, realistic, yet God-honouring way. I think what's missing often in the conversation is how to be set apart as a holy people within the practical realities of living in a sinful, extremely sexualized world and how that actually looks. Mostly it is a lot of recommendations of "don't have sex before marriage" that don't address how to negotiate that in a world of sexting, sex toys and Tinder, mostly because the people speaking on it are either unfamiliar with that world or are uncomfortable to speak on it. Ground that conversation in the context that young people face and then things can improve.
But anyways, I digress. The message was good, powerful, and it was especially powerful because of the story that the lady sharing the message added. She said openly that she hadn't wanted to share the story, but shared it nonetheless, about how she had personally made mistakes sexually in relationships in the past and how she learned from it and make practical changes in her life and away from that relationship to seek after God and what He wanted to do in her life, both relationally and otherwise.
Stories are powerful, and to me, they are always the most powerful testimonies of God's work on this earth. Reading the Bible is all fine and dandy but it also often feels so separate and exclusive from our reality. That is not saying that it is not relevant to our lives, in fact it's very much the opposite: God's word is one of those things that mirrors His identity, unchanging yet constantly relevant. But sometimes the application of the Word in our lives feels like something so abstract. Like, stating "do good" without going into how to "do good." So when stories are shared by people who have experienced God in their lives are shared, it grounds it in the reality that we live in today. That's why church is so important, why it's so important to meet together as a community of believers. Because it's in the shared experience of seeking after God that we realize that we are not alone, that our struggles are not unsolvable. It's where we find a community to be vulnerable with, to laugh with, and cry with, and most importantly, it is a place where we can learn that God is working in the lives that we live today. I think that's something that you will never discover if you're on your own, studying the Bible by yourself, praying on your own. God meant for us to seek after Him together.
Being a Christian means going to church, getting together and relating with a community of believers. Believe it.
So after that, I put that into action. I went up to her after and thanked her for sharing this story, telling her that even though she was hesitant to share, God worked through her that night. I also thanked the regular pastor for being my pastor for the past two months. He prayed over me, and prayed for a job when I returned and a place to live for my family. And it was beautiful. The spiritual high that I left with was something akin to the feels you get when you go to a youth retreat, concert, or something of the like. Now usually when I talk about that spiritual high, I don't necessarily think of it positively, because it's something so fleeting, seemingly so pushed along by temporary emotion, a brief high in the midst of the hills and valleys of our lives.
But after realizing that those experiences are always instigated by worshipping and seeking after God in community with others, I realized that maybe that 'spiritual high' is probably more than just a simple high. I think instead it's a sneak peek into what heaven will be like, where we will be close not just to God but with all the other people around us who love Him and are seeking after Him just as we are.
It's more than a high, it's what we were made to do.