The Lookout: First Week in Brussels

Ten days ago, I arrived in Brussels, Belgium, the famous city of beer, chocolate and priceless architecture. My insane jet-lag made the first two days quite a blur, but now I feel comfortable in my surroundings. Well, comfortable might be a stretch.

God is undoubtedly teaching me to be present. He’s breaking down my walls of caution by showing me there is more to life than what I know, and what I think is best. He’s teaching me to observe and to listen to his voice when I feel like hiding.

There were a lot of differences I noted when I arrived. For instance, there are more nationalities than I expected. The common language is Dutch, French, and many locals speak very good English. I’ve never felt so embarrassed being the silly American stereotype by knowing only one language.

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My first Sunday night Bible study, I met people from France, Australia, England, Korea, China, and the U.S. We shared a meal, drank a few local beers, and had a great discussion on the first chapter of Jonah.

If you aren’t familiar with Jonah, it’s an outlandish story about a prophet who gets a message from God to call out the city of Nineveh for the evil things they are doing there. Jonah rebels, runs from God, gets swallowed by a big fish for three days, and in the end, fulfills God’s mission. As I participated in the group discussion, I felt like God was speaking directly to me. In terms of hiding, I was a lot like Jonah.

The weeks leading up to my new adventure I was pretty calm. But when I arrived, I felt panicked—like heart pounding, breathing heavily, sweaty palms kind of panicked. I thought coming here had all been a mistake. Why would I give up my perfectly comfortable life in the States to go somewhere I knew little to nothing about and didn’t know a single person?

In fact, it’s my nature to want to serve God and do his will as long as it’s convenient, doesn’t interrupt my plans, or make me uncomfortable in any way. I am a creature of habit, schedules, and safety. I don’t like feeling unprepared or out-of-place.

But if I regard my time in Brussels as a significant act of God, then it’s a joyful encounter. It is a front row seat of his hands orchestrating love and wonder to the people here. It’s a chance to see the world with fresh eyes.

I toured an art museum for the Belgium painter, Rene Magritte where I marveled at the imagination and conflict of his artwork. Magritte said, “To be a surrealist means barring from your mind all remembrance of what you have seen, and being always on the lookout for what has never been.”

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I believe that’s true of art, travel, and life. I can stay in my harbor or I can choose to brave the unpredictable waves. I can step out on faith being on the lookout for every opportunity to hear God’s voice. I can submerge myself in a foreign culture, make new friends, and have new stories.

I pray you will listen to that voice. It may not be easy to shut out the doubt. I’m not saying be fearless but don’t hide. Say yes and see where God will lead you.

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