This one's a bit longer, but I thought it would lose impact if I split it up. Enjoy!
Revelations 2:4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.
At pre marital counseling Krystl and I sat with Steve, the pastor that is to marry us, and spoke through several verses. Revelations 2:4-5 stuck with me."Do the things you did at first", it rings through my mind. Last September I read a book for a college course I was in, “The Divine Romance”. I read it in one sitting, I cried once or twice. Even though I do not agree with all the theology of the book, I could not escape the theme of God’s intense love for us, and what He did for us on the cross. I closed my report of “The Divine Romance” by saying that after reading the book I walked down the street with emotions stirring in my chest. They were not new emotions, but emotions and connections I had felt as a new believer, when the reality of God’s love first hit me. I didn’t even realize I didn’t feel those feelings any more, and the reminder invigorated my faith. We spoke of this verse in context of marriage, to remember that love in the beginning, to not lose sight of it.
This Conversation laid dormant in my subconscious all day. At five o’clock I left the clean cut shiny glassed, square mold of architecture where I work and headed to Winnipeg’s exchange district to meet Krystl at a cake store to pick our wedding cake. I walked through the streets of downtown, the new Hydro Building tall, efficient, confident. The TD building towering strong, imposing on us, reminding us that we have bills to pay, bank accounts to attend to, check books to balance.
As I turned corners the Exchange District, affectionately called “The Exchange” by locals, started to come into view. A red brick building, rough looking with a giant label “Odeon Theatre”. The Malborough on my right, built in 1914 if I remember right. The buildings more and more become rough brick, elaborate moldings. Signs go from neon and back lit to simple and pasted to buildings, all telling you their purpose in a tongue in cheek way.
Here I am reminded that Winnipeg was young once. It bustled like the towns in opening scenes of old western movies. I walk into a Book Store Coffee Shop. It is rough, there is a smell to the place, maybe incense, or maybe some creative dish I’ve never heard of and will probably never try. It has it’s own produce section where I assume the living simple hippy demographic filling chairs at tables find organic fruit and veggies. I don’t buy coffee here. I don’t fit, I don’t have a big beard, dreads, stories about where I’ve been in the world.
I walk out in the street and into the next door. It’s a newer brand of coffee shop. Here clean cut people sit with their Mac Books and take care of business they want people to think is poetic, or pressing. The people behind the counter almost seem to be in costumes, one with a fedora and her shirt on backwards. Her lips are painted bright red purposely contrasting the masculine style clothes she’s wearing. I assume they don’t dress like this outside of their coffee shop. These two coffee shops separated by a wall of wood and cement might as well be in two different cities. I get a hot chocolate, I am disappointed with it. I figure the hot chocolate next store would have been tastier, and cheaper. Later Krystl and I would sit in a coffee shop a block away full business people and two big screen T.V.’s blaring the Prime Ministerial Debate. I feel the least comfortable here out of the three shops, socially and physically, the chairs are too straight.
I leave the new brand coffee shop, walking briskly with fake purpose. I walk down the archway back lanes and I imagine the excitement and anticipation of the times when the bricks were laid. I love the bricks, I imagine through a sepia lense, gruff men in vintage clothing laying the bricks one at a time by hand. Lining up every brick, making sure every gap is right one by one. Buttering mortar onto the previous bricks in preparation for the new, this process repeated until a building is standing in the place of yesterday’s construction sight. A slower messier way of building, but the pride and reward of the end result must have been euphoric and worthy of no less than the intricate cement gargoyles and moldings they are finished with.
Here, like no other place in the City, every walk of life feels a draw. We all want a connection with this special place of beginnings. We all respect each other here enjoying a sense of connection through this common feeling that we all have a piece of this beginning, and on these streets and in these archway alleys we all belong, the evidence of the beginning making us brothers and sisters of one city.
My thoughts turn inwards, to the beginnings of my faith. I wonder about the city of my soul. These fifteen years I’ve been following Christ. These clean cut shiny glassed, square mold theologies I am building, tall, efficient, confident statements rehearsed and spit out. But that day I read the divine romance, I wandered the streets of my soul, I caught a glimpse of the exchange district, the beginning of my faith. I imagine walking around the streets of the exchange of my soul looking at faith and revelations that were built arduously brick by brick. At first sloppy with the mortar, but as I walk I can see between the bricks where I became more skilled with the tools given me. I notice some buildings condemned and choose not to remember why. Some are dilapidated and abandoned, I grieve these, I must come back to them, turn the lights on, and make them warm and beautiful again. Here I remember the bustling anticipation of this cityscape that God was raising. I need the new downtown, but I must never forget these streets where it all started, I must remember to visit them more and get excited again about how it started, where God has brought it to, and to remember he has a plan in mind for my future.
In the exchange of our souls, all followers, no matter what their doctrine or dogma, become brothers sharing an experience of new birth. Billions of souls, trillions of memories, one cross. Here we all stand on the same undeserved and unearned ground of grace.
I encourage and implore you to take time today, walk the streets of your early faith. Remember the love and excitement. Take time to breathe in the smells, feel the course bricks of the first verses you read from God’s word, listen for the songs that spoke to your soul, and conversations with close friends that pushed your faith deeper. Read quotes out of the sky that made you think, books that taught you more about this faith, poems that made your soul jump inside you. And, if you are brave enough, take someone with you and show them the sights, and share the excitement of that new love.