Psalm 139: 7-10
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
It’s now been a little over 2 weeks since I stepped back onto the Emerald Isle and I’ve been settling in well with volunteer and church placements, friends old and new, and getting accustomed to all of Northern Ireland’s little cultural quirks (I thought they drank a lot of tea in Scotland but it’s minuscule compared to here – I’m currently averaging 5 cups of tea/coffee per day!).
Often when I find myself telling my story about how I ended up living in Belfast, I’m inclined to feel a bit of nostalgia for my first trip to Northern Ireland in December 2012. I was a temporary visitor, a tourist with a camera in hand. I only took 40 pictures, mostly consisting of well-noted attractions, green hillsides and rocky shorelines. In retrospect, I found that my favourite stories couldn’t fit in a 3×5 frame, and I don’t regret for one second sacrificing a decent picture for a better conversation.
There is one, though, that always stuck out in my photo album, of a random set of shops on a street. I never really knew why I took the picture because it didn’t correlate with the rest, but I remember how excited I was that it was sunny on our bus tour and it made the street look beautiful.
The other day I was walking from my bus stop on the main road back to my flat and I noticed that the store fronts looked oddly familiar, but didn’t give it too much thought considering there are a lot of Winemarks in the area. That night I felt unsettled and restless so I pulled up Facebook to look at the pictures from 3 years ago and that’s when I realised I’m literally living right around the corner from those shops in East Belfast. Of all of the streets in the city, this is where I’ve ended up. You can call it fate, call it chance, call it luck, call it a sign or call it coincidence, but I can’t help but to believe that our lives aren’t random. That what often seems inconsequential will have meaning later on, whether it’s in a few days or a few decades. That no matter what good or bad decisions we make, or right or wrong paths we choose, we end up exactly where God intends for us to be.
And as I continue to reflect on this memory and other experiences, I’m content, because I see how humorous God really is; I understand why He’s put certain people, places and circumstances in my life and I’m thankful for His covert consistency. Now that I’m on the other side of the street (literally in the picture I took today), the signs have changed and I’m looking at this culture from more than just a tourist perspective, I’m expectant. Looking ahead at this year spent volunteering, I don’t really know why I’m here or what I’m doing here, but I know that God is here with me and He’s here in this city, and that’s enough.