is that contradictory? I can't tell... but it perfectly describes what I'm thinking...
I've been thinking a lot about Scotland. I wish I remembered more of what I felt when I was there. It was so beautiful, so rugged... and the hills looked as if they said—"You don't belong here! What do you know of us or our history, the history of this land?"—at first glance... If mountains could mock, these mountains certainly did. But I came to love them. I didn't understand the land, and I didn't pretend to... But I knew that I was drawn to it by something I couldn't quite place. I loved the mountains in spite of their austere nature, and everything about the land. The vibrant heather against the green, the green against the deep, cloudy sky... Everything contrasted so highly, and everything blending so beautifully. In short, I believe I rather fell in love.
And I remember feeling rather listless when we boarded the train for London. I remember thinking: "Why must I leave? Can't I stay here forever? Can't I wander on these roads, wander in the highlands, live among the heather, among the sheep... Why must I leave?"
All good things come to an end. Except for the best thing of all—too good for our finite minds to comprehend... God never comes to an end. He is forever.
Ever since I went to Scotland, I have been gripped by a kind a nostalgia... The mountains couldn't care less if I came or went, the land seemed to say: "thousands come to see this... we are here merely for a show." How I wanted to live amongst the people, to learn about the land, to discover, explore, and become part of it! It was so beautiful... The most beautiful I've ever seen. Whenever I think of Scotland I am accompanied by a wild, beautiful excitement. This is the most beautiful land I had seen. Then I saw, that I was willing to give up a lot... a lot... to fulfill this dream of actually living in Scotland.
Now as I'm thinking about this, I can't help remembering the most beautiful thing I saw when I was there. We were standing high on a cliff, where Flora MacDonald was buried. The graves were old and weatherbeaten. The sea was gray and stormy. The sky was dark, as if it was ready for a storm... yet it had been that way all day. We could see the cliffs all around, the inlets, the waves crashing against the barren rocks. And then.... through that gray, gray sky, there came light, filtering through and resting on an inlet. It was the most beautiful thing.
"Beyond this labyrinth of darkness, there is a realm of light."
I was so captured by this lovely image. All around was dark and stormy, and yet the light rested there on the calm water... There was no break in the clouds, and yet there was the light, soft yet strong.
I was blessed to get a picture of it.
And now, looking back, I see that I was willing to give up a lot.
And over the past few days I've asked myself...
"Have I been so willing to give up so much to follow Christ? Is following Christ more important to me than fulfilling my dream of someday returning to Scotland, to spend as much time there as possible?" Scotland requires me to give up a lot. God requires me to give up all. And all includes that dream of Scotland. Yes, I am willing to remain with this euphoric nostalgia of that beautiful country, being content with that. I am willing never to go there again, if that is what God's will is. Because God is more important to me than a country that will pass away. And as beautiful as it is, it will never be as beautiful as God's grace, or as glorious as he himself is, clothed in holiness and righteousness. This is beauty.
But there was a time when I was unsure. For awhile I wondered to myself whether or not Scotland had become more important. I might be reluctant to give up a few things to follow Christ, but I could certainly think of nothing I was reluctant to give up right then and there to go to Scotland. Just being there would be reward enough for all I had given up.
But I deserve no reward. I would have given up a lot, but it was never mine to give up. Everything I own is a gift from my Father... everything I have is from him. Nothing truly belongs to me. And soon, I will die, and the image of Scotland will be unimportant. It would pass, just like everything else. I will die, and it will be gone. Should I give up everything for something that I can only enjoy in this present life—and have no memory of in after-life? What about God? This life may be full of suffering... full of sorrow... full of trials and tribulations, but we can find beauty and joy in Christ. He gives us light, just like the light coming through the dark clouds on the water. And through his strength, we can be a light in a dark place. If we give up everything—our passions, our desires, our relationships—EVERYTHING, and follow Christ, think of what we will gain afterwords—an eternity with our King!
That is much better than a few years in a rugged, beautiful land.
That is so much better it doesn't even compare...
And I decided that no, Scotland was not more important to me than the task that I have been given: to follow Christ whole-heartedly and proclaim his name everywhere.
It doesn't mean I can't remember Scotland as a beautiful place, but it does mean that it simply won't be as important to me as the life God has called me to live.