Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wanderlust and Christian Community

Why is it that we love to travel? This spirit of wanderlust as my friend Tim calls it lives and breathes inside me. It’s rather like an unscratchable itch: it is satiated but never exactly satisfied. There’s this desire to push a little further, go a little deeper. As I begin to plan my year in England, I am overwhelmed by the number of remarkable travel destinations that spot western and eastern Europe. I have a friend living in Barcelona who has graciously invited me to visit and stay with her family. A fellow sorority sister from undergrad is studying architecture in Rome. It would be a sin not to see the City of Lights at night, or (as the daughter of an art professor) amble through the Louvre. Should I make a break for it and head north, into Scandinavia and visit my fatherland? Is it worth the higher costs to visit Norway and see the lands of my ancestors? What about Britain; how much of this “small island” should I consume in my lust for engaging and imbibing new places, people and experiences? And, how much is too much?

I’m going to England to study theology. I am going to England to encounter God in the trappings of a different culture. I am going to England to engage the ecumenical Christian family in way that I cannot do in Atlanta. I am going to England to be a fish out of water. But, in my desire to take advantage of my proximity to the wonders of continental Europe, have I, am I missing the point? I mean, I have wanted to go to Paris and Rome since I was old enough to want to travel. The books of art with the fabulous color photographs of the Sistine Chapel and the assorted marvels of the Parisian art captured my imagination as a child. The history that unfolds within those old city streets has fascinated me, seduced me and excited me. Aside from Jerusalem – which is the single place I want to visit most in all the world – Paris and Rome stand at the top of my most-want-to-see list. And, I can’t deny that a significant reason I am excited about moving to England and going to Cambridge is that I will be able to go and visit these two and other places of interest. But at what point must I swallow that wanderlust and remember that I am there to study, to be a invested member of a Christian community? How do I balance my hot desire to see and do as much as possible, with my great need to commit to a community for all kinds of education and engagement?

 I have promised myself 4 trips while I’m gone. I will visit Paris, Rome and Barcelona. I hope that my 4th trip will be to Norway, although time and costs will directly impact its potential. I have a month off from December 3rd to January 3rd. Maybe I can take a week and backpack someplace on the warmish side. Other destinations of interest are: Amsterdam for the Tulip festival, Germany for Oktoberfest, Jerusalem (although I feel like that might be cheating myself out of really engaging Europe), Istanbul (I feel the same about this as I feel about Jerusalem), Bratislava and Prague where I have a family friend, and Athens Greece to see the ruins.

There are so many places to go and things to see. I could spend a lifetime discovering the hidden treasures of Europe. But I know that I must rein myself in and keep myself oriented around my work at Cambridge and my commitment to a community of faith. That is why I’m going, after all.

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