“I’ll have the Chicken Pad Thai, please.”
“NO! Err, sorry. No. Miiiild. Mild spice! Thank you!”
I had had the hot spice before and literally started crying in the restaurant. I had learned my lesson and was quite proud to have found a dish that felt like home.
After around the fourth time attending this little restaurant we called our own, I could practically order for my teammates. This restaurant, whose name I still cannot pronounce, became our own little fort in the city.
We talked about how one day, years from now, after all of us had moved away, we would make it back to this very spot. We would order the same food we were ordering now and sit at the same table. We would talk about where the Lord had led us. Maybe we would bring spouses and kids, or maybe we would be donning some kind of religious habit. And we would dive back into our memories of being missionaries in New York City. It was going to be our very own Cheers reunion, and the thought of it filled me with peace and joy.
But last month, something changed.
I had to run down Thompson Street to the local CVS for an errand. As I jet back to the Catholic Center, I briefly turned my heard to the right and caught site of an abandoned shop with boarded-up windows.
“I wonder what that was. Wonder what’s going in next?” I briefly thought. This was New York City. Things change all the time.
It wasn’t till a few steps later that it hit me in the gut:
That was our Thai place. Those were our memories. That was our plan.
And it was gone.
I actually didn’t think I could ever mourn the loss of a restaurant — but New York has changed me. I wanted that to be the place we came back to. I wanted it to be ours until the end.
How often do we do that? How often do we want something, or someone, to be ours until the end? We make memories, we set dates, we make plans, we grasp the familiarity and hold tight to the utter peace that we’re feeling — and then, in a second, it’s gone. The peace is gone, and we’re left questioning if there was ever peace to begin with.
Good news: there was. At least, in my minor restaurant scenario, there was peace. That shop brought us together as a team. It gave us a spot to pretend like we actually knew how to live in New York City. It was there for us, as much as a physical space can be. But the Lord taught me a profound lesson the day he took that infamous Thai shop away from us.
He taught me that sometimes things need to change so we can keep living the fulfilling life He has planned for us. We can’t just sit in a Thai shop and block out the rest of the New York City cuisine!
Mind you, sometimes — most of the time — change hurts more than the loss of a restaurant. Sometimes it hurts so much that you’re left shaking and out of breath.
But I’m convinced this type of movement of the heart is to keep us moving towards Him. He wants us to keep moving and to keep allowing ourselves to be moved. To be moved by love, by heartache, by art, by death and life, by food and hunger; to be moved by an emptying of our own desires, plans, wants, and dreams; to be filled up by a love only He can pour into us. He wants us to keep experiencing all He has to give us — to seek greatness, rather than indulge in the comfortable.
And that is a gift. We must believe in and be thankful for the peace He has given us. His peace is real, even when He takes it away.
Don’t look at things changing as a punishment or an erasing of what once was, but rather think of it as an opening for something new to move in. And how beautiful is THAT?