Thursday, September 3, 2009
And Then... Rest.
I've spent the last few days in Birmingham, England. But not really in Birmingham (explanation later). If you don't know, B'ham, as it's called on highway street-signs, is a large industrial town North-West of London. It's a big town, and it feels a lot like Chicago. My friend, and current roommate, Sam, described it as concrete. Which is pretty accurate. Not only is there a ton of the stuff around, but for some reason Birmingham just feels concrete. Some big cities can feel warm, inviting, filled with reds, burgundies, mustards, neons, and welcoming, London is definitely this way. I think that may be my favorite city in the world. There's just something about it. Birmingham, on the other hand, is blue-white, reflective, cold, rigid, rutty, and bristly. I did not quite get comfortable there.
Although, we did stumble upon a market; this very multi-cultural, cheap, almost-flea-market area. I enjoyed that quite a bit. I found a Union Jack zippo, which is perfect for my incessant need to fiddle. I just flip it around, and open, and closed, and over and over; kinda like Pyro from X2. Without the teenage angst.
But! Most of our time has not been in the city. Quite contrarily, it has been in a small Quaker community just outside of town. Woodbrooke's population is small, and its median age dropped significantly when we arrived. It's kind of like a large bed-n-breakfast. Complete with a gorgeous garden in the back, a lake with boats, an unlimited supply of hot tea, homemade meals, and rain. Lots of rain. I love the rain. But it's keeping me from taking many pictures, so there may not be a very good feel for Birmingham on here.
This place has been so needed. There's just an overwhelming sense of peace. You will slow down and reconcile yourself with your surroundings here. There is no choice, it just happens. Which is so nice. And needed. I think I'll be ready to tackle 10 more days of London after this. I'm actually really excited about going back. Also, random, I have an excellent sense of direction in the city. How bizarre.
Anyway, more important things. Like God. It's quite difficult not to recognize Him here. It's not a human sense of peace that floods you while you're here. ' Course, the professors have set up this place to promote focus on God as well. We had the Theological Philosopher John Hick come speak to us a few days ago. It was an...interesting talk. His position is one that transcends most traditional religions and finds the truth (to live for, and love God, and live a compassionate life of selflessness) of the Ultimate Reality (God) is drafted in all the actual religions of the world. As a result, one does not have to follow the Way, Truth, and Life of Jesus to reach what humans are meant to do by becoming as close to the Ultimate Reality as possible (salvation and heaven). He is brilliant, and I found myself agreeing a lot with his points. He did an excellent job pointing out inconsistencies and false pretenses among our thinking, which was needed. However, I noticed how much of the class' responses were apologetic, on-the-offensive, "this is what the Bible says...", which was quite disappointing.
I think that there is a lot to Hick's point of view. It is impossible for us to judge just who among us will end up with God after this life, God reveals His truth in ways that are catered to our own understanding (so, His love can be found in places that one might not expect it to be in), and we should recognize the incredible achievements of anyone, not matter their religion. However, after fleshing things out with one of my professors (who is a former student of Hick's), I can see where I differ from him. I still think that Jesus is the incarnation of God who died for all our sins, and should be regarded and worshipped as such. And I think that ultimately, it is up to God to decide who will be with him at the end, not for us to guess.
God is also revealing himself through his own words (hmm...imagine that). The Chaplains are reading through the book of Isaiah, which has so far been incredible. It's amazing what deep and mind-blowing truths were revealed to a relatively insignificant group of settled wanderers in ancient Palestine ;) I'm so excited to continue this practice and to continue to find God in a place that I haven't before.
Oye... I need to learn conciseness...