June 22, 2006

A Not So Strange Land

Our plane landed at Dulles Airport at 5:30 a.m. That's 2:30 a.m. where I'm from. We hopped in the shuttle that took us to our hotel, and right away, everything seemed different here than in California. The freeway signs appeared to be a different shade of green, if ever so slightly. The stripes in the roadway were a little wider, and spaced a little differently. The houses were different---red brick, most of them---so that I was surprised to see the same model cars parked in the driveways as we have in California.

Trees grow all around---unconfined to little islands of nature hemmed in by concrete curbs. Instead of being in complete control of nature, humanity here seems to have made a compromise. Even in the weather, this can be seen: back home in California, rain and snow are not permitted to fall in summer, except in the mountains; here, precipitation falls any day, and thunderstorms regularly shatter humanity's illusion of control.

That's one thing I like about America east of the Sierras.

The people I meet are from all over: Canada, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, Hawaii. They are from places where the shades of green are different, the stripes spaced in different ways, where the weather and trees are also unfamiliar.

At the opening worship, we were given an envelope. We were told that inside the envelope was a reminder, a symbol, of rest and peace for the weary. We were told not to open the envelope, not yet. I looked around, and every person was fidgeting, running their fingers along the envelope's edges, testing the seal, trying with their hands to feel the rest and peace that they could not yet see with their eyes.

That's when I realized that even though we are different, we are the same. We are small church pastors, tired, weary, overworked, who need rest and peace. When someone offered us a symbol of rest and peace in an envelope, it was all we could do to wait until it was time to open it and see what was inside.

Suddenly, everything around me looked familiar. I am no longer in a strange land.

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