Still, being on my own in this semi-large city of Chiang Mai, I've gotten to know my way around--or at least that's what I tell myself. Last night I successfully made it to an Italian restaurant--Girasole--where I met the Blumenstocks for dinner.
The Blumenstocks--Mr. and Mrs. plus their lovely little daughter--are kind people. I felt as though I had known them a long time, we had the American culture and English language in common.
After we ordered, we bowed our heads and Mr. Blumenstock said a short prayer. As I sat there with my head down and hands folded, I couldn't remember ever feeling so comforted by a simple prayer. To pray together as a group before a meal--it was such a beautiful thing to me.
When the prayer was over, I felt at home in that restaurant, I felt at home with those people. Plus, we were eating Italian food, a novelty I had nearly forgotten.
After the dinner, I went to the Saturday walking street (a local bazaar) and enjoyed being a tourist and buying merchandise sold at tourists prices.
I decided to walk the four miles back, I wasn't in a hurry to be alone in my hotel room. Surrounded by city life--a five-lane highway next to a dark mote reflecting hundreds of streetlights, and the mesmerizing flow of traffic whirring by--I began thinking about things maybe only very lonely, deep thinkers think about.
I had recently left China--home to millions--all with names, distinct identities, desires, and birthdays. I arrived here, in Thailand, where 95% of the population were devout Buddhists. I had seen literally hundreds of munks in their plain, mustard-yellow garb and bare feet, walking from place to place. And the temples! I think there are twice as many Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai as there are churches in Grandville, Michigan, which is really saying something.
There are so many people in the world, so many. You really can't understand until you've gone out and experienced it. I thought I knew, but I really had no idea. These people (Chinese, Thai, random Europeans from countries I didn't remember learning about) were all so completely different than anything I had ever known.
As I walked along the mote, unnoticed by the rest of the world, I felt like a vagabond (a recurring theme). My concept of moral responsibility had been shattered.
God doesn't need me to prove anything, I realized. I always knew this, I just finally felt the reality of it.
I could go anywhere, be anyone, and the world would keep on turning--with or without me--and God would be just as great. I could invest everything into this planet or I could lock myself away in a tiny room; history’s course wouldn’t be altered.
A friend put these reflections in better words in an email a while back:
Know that you aren't expected to do everything. You're to do what you can with what you have and what lies before you. Start small, start humbly and let the spirit work. If things flow, it's his doing rather than something that you've brought about. We can work and strive and push and exhaust ourselves and achieve nothing, when what we most need to do is to let go of our own agendas, expectations and tasks, allow him to bring things together, and find ourselves in that peace and love that gives actual meaning to what we can offer to others.Perhaps it is in the moments I feel so completely lost in the masses that I am able to find in myself what actually matters.
When I finally arrived at my hotel it was dark and my feet were covered in dirt. I was at peace though. There is a certain relief in knowing I'm not responsible for changing the world or standing out. I am merely a small cog in a very complex, massive machine. I am the extra in a much bigger drama.
“To admit the existence of a need in God is to admit incompleteness in the divine Being. Need is a creature-word and cannot be spoken of the Creator. God has a voluntary relation to everything He has made, but He has no necessary relation to anything outside of Himself. His interest in His creatures arises from His sovereign good pleasure, not from any need those creatures can supply nor from any completeness they can bring to Him who is complete in himself.” ― A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy