The church building shook each time the subway train passed beneath it. The first time this happened Thursday night I worried that the building would collapse in a heap on top of me as I slept. The Brooklyn natives carried on around the rumbling and the rattling as if nothing were amiss, but each time I felt as if the building were begging me to pay attention: to stop talking or to look up from my reading. After a week I no longer worried for my safety; instead I was reminded of the trains passing my childhood home late every night. The shaking, like the whistles of long ago, grew comforting rather than troubling.
The evening of my first full day brought a shaky uncertainty to my peaceful state of mind. Tears coursed down my face as I timorously assimilated the new cultures I’d experienced over the day. We shopped and ate food in different ways. People were hurting in ways I’d had no idea were normal. I showered in a baptistry. I saw new sights, heard new sounds, smelled new scents and thought new ideas, and all of them vied for a footing in my mind. I woke that Friday morning to learn that my City Hall of Perception was built on a fault line, and Earthquake Reality was preparing an attack.
My legs wobbled precariously as I stood up from a near-death tumble. A shaky smile and a “yeah, I’m fine” later, I reflected on the sheer stupidity of rollerblading downhill on a sidewalk in a strange city after dark on Saturday night, especially when the last time I donned a pair of rollerblades I thought Crocs were cool (hint: a long time ago). Sustaining only a few scrapes and an injured pride, I thanked God in Heaven for hearing my inwardly shouted prayer for safety.
As we sat at the piano on Sunday afternoon, the tremors in my fingers were probably only visible to myself and BFF#2. It is strange to me that after receiving a Bachelor’s degree in piano, I still shake like a leaf when asked to play the simplest things in front of anyone, strangers and friends alike. It’s uncomfortable, I don’t like it, and it gets worse when my lower leg decides to get in on the action. But then again, I don’t play for myself, do I?
I trembled in the cold as we stood in the drizzling rain atop the roof of a friend’s apartment building. We wanted to see the fireworks, because it was Independence Day in New York City and that’s what you do, but the rain ensured we saw just a few short bursts before succumbing to our desire for shelter. It was an odd contrast to be shivering atop a building in the dark, when just earlier that day we’d been eating ice cream in tank tops to cool down our blazing hot Monday walk.
By Tuesday my heart was in turmoil, vacillating between my sinful human desires and my desire for peace with my Savior. I searched my heart and found it selfish, discontent, angry and jealous, and most of all I found it unwilling to surrender to the truths I was discovering. I didn’t want to consider living a life with next to nothing — but the people I encountered made me examine my motives. I don’t like being responsible for my every word and action — but in the city I was reminded that I really, really am. I wanted to give just some of my life to God — but He demands all of it.
The church building shook in the presence of trains: but the Word it is built upon stands forever (1 Peter 1:25).
My mind was shaken in the face of new experiences: but steady is the truth that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that none should perish (John 3:16).
My legs shook in the face of danger: but He searches out my path and is acquainted with all my ways (Psalm 139:3).
My fingers shook with nerves: but the Lord is with me, I will not be afraid (Psalm 118:6).
My body shook with cold in the darkness: but even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day (Psalm 139:12).
My heart shook with effort, straining at my own desires: but He who began a good work in me will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6).
I am shaky and weak: but HE is my strength.
I love you, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.