I have never been “in love” with another person. I love my family, for all of their blessings and struggles, and I love my friends, who from time to time become my family. I’ve had some high quality crushes in the past that ended with wimpers as the gentlemen involved, who I assume had no idea, moved on to relationships in the real world rather than my daydreams. And I’ve loved students or children I’ve worked with, knowing these individuals are part of my life for a time and need to just be loved during that time and then released. But in all of that time I’ve never experienced the emotions that inspire writers of sonnets, heroes in battle, or the ones who wait patiently at home for their hero to return.
I have been “in love” with places though. I’ve come to find sacred spaces in my life that I go through an emotional release just by being in. One of these places is the front of a sanctuary, any sanctuary. Being in the same physical space where thousands of sermons have been given, hundreds of weddings performed, and hundreds of last goodbyes spoken at funerals almost brings me to tears. You are standing on holy ground. When I’ve had internships at churches in the past, I loved sneaking into the sanctuary on a weekday afternoon, and just walking up the aisle to those front stairs. I would not speak until reaching the stairs, and even then every uttered syllable had to be worth breaking the quiet. I would only stay a few minutes in that space, for fear that my wandering thoughts would spoil the room, but the rest of the day shifted just by those few moments of complete worship.
This week I had to say goodbye to a beloved place in my life. For over two years I’ve been working with a group of students at Warner Pacific’s Wilsonville Campus. We only had two groups at that location during this short time, and unfortunately found that there was not enough interest to financial support it long-term. I was scared at first to be the counselor for this location after learning of the struggles of another campus location and wondering what this whole new area would bring. Would I be good enough for them? What I discovered about these students was that they were sacrificing more than what I was experiencing with our other students because many of them had waited months for this campus to begin, and some were driving 30 minutes or more to get there from Salem or other southern locations. The experience was not perfect, we all were human after all, but it was a true delight.
While I am missing that campus and those students, I’m missing just as much and perhaps even more the drive from Portland to Wilsonville. It was a 40 minute commute no matter the time of day. I would head down I-205 to I-5 then take the exit by the Sonic sign and enjoy a quick trip through town to the high school. The beautiful paradox of the drive came during the last few miles of I-205. The road at this point was just two lanes, with the other two on the other side of a mound. On either side of these last miles were miles and miles of trees. Even though there were typically cars around me, I would feel transported to some wilderness space, feeling free from the burdens behind me and capable of just driving off into the woods for an adventure (if not for the guard rails beside me). Three minutes from this quiet bliss, via one overpass, I would be on a four lane highway: I-5. Suddenly life had caught up in the form of a passing semi and the world was rushing back in. Geographically it was like skipping from Alaska to California. There were flat spaces all around, if you could see them beyond the cars and buildings. A few times I laughed out loud at the complete change in just a few minutes time. A few minutes later I would reach my exit and be within a long walk’s distance to the destination.
I loved that commuting paradox and would say thank you to its designer. You created art in the midst of a 40 minute drive.