A Trip to Visit a Giant…In Which a Friendly Irish Man Tells Me I Would Make a Good Nun…

It’s been a wonderful past few days here in Northern Ireland. Belfast to be specific. Rainy, cold, brisk – feels like home back in New York. Except for the accents of course. I’m growing used to take-away instead of to-go, queues instead of lines, the filler “emm” instead of “umm,” moderately good, but pretty expensive coffee, made up for by delectable scones, crazy drivers flying around on the wrong side of the road, and a bit of “wee” everything. 

    
       

I finished off my trip with a visit to the north coast, home of the Giant’s Causeway. The views were so impressive. I haven’t seen such dramatic landscape since I visited Colorado. Though naturally the Colorado landscape was of a very different kind.

 

  
 
The dramatic heights, careening swiftly down into an intense valley, and along the far side…the ocean. 

  
Waves crashing against the rock wall.

  
Our route was just along the ocean. On an exceedingly narrow road. In rather a large coach. 
Now, by “exceedingly narrow,” you must understand that I mean, exceedingly, exceedingly narrow. In fact, if you reader are from anywhere in the US, just imagine a city sidewalk, line two up beside each other, add a hedge along both sides, and some inscrutable street markings, add vehicles moving along at a quick pace on the wrong side of the road, add a few cyclists and excessive pedestrian crossings, and voila! Here are British roads!

  
Clearly I’m exaggerating. British roads are obviously narrower then I’m describing.  

  

Ok, so maybe the formula is more like this: appx 1 1/2 lanes of typical US road + shoulder  = 2 lane UK road. Of course, 1/2 size US automobile = 1 UK vehicle…so that helps. 
Anyway! I digress. Let us just say that once one has seen roads over here, US roads, Broadway in Saratoga Springs, lined with cars, seem excessive and just a wee bit frivolous. 
Though I do think our road signs make more sense. 

Whilst on this Giant’s Causeway tour, I was “adopted,” sort of, by a delightful tour guide from Dublin, come up with another little tour group to meet ours. We met as he helped his own group (and myself) get cash before our first tour stop, and we started chatting about my travels and my plans for mission in Amsterdam.

  

It was quite a cultural experience. 

A simple question like: “where do you go to church?” Was quite a challenge to answer, as over here there is mainly Catholic and Anglican (or Church of Ireland), my answer “I go to a non-denominational church” or “I worked for the Episcopal Church (he didn’t know what that was – very American denomination)” still brought questions like, “So what religion are you?”

I tried to say, “I’m a Christian.” But that also seemed confusing. Finally he settled on, “So you’re a little bit of everything (at which point I was prepared to make certain he didn’t mean Unitarian or Universalist…) a little Catholic, a little Anglican…” 

Yes, something like that.

   
   

He, of course, was Catholic. Being from the south. 

Which led into a somewhat instructive, and incredibly entertaining discussion on my views on priestly garb (I’m a fan and so is he), what I thought about celebacy (for priests, not myself, as I had to clarify in the moment), and then his phenomenal observation that I would “make a good nun.” 

I can’t say I’ve ever been told that, friend Paddy. 

Thanks… I think… 

No, I jest. I do consider it a compliment. See part of the discussion was about my upcoming mission trip to Amsterdam and my desire to be a minister in the church, though not perhaps a member of clergy, ordained. It was instructive to watch this kind man try and fit me into his context – how can you work for the church without being either ordained or in a monastic community? It seems he did not have the schema, the contextual structures in the brain to fit these pieces of information. 

It made me more grateful then ever to have grown up in a context and community that instilled in me the priesthood of every believer. The call to relationship with Jesus. The call to live out this Gospel lifestyle. 

It’s not for the clergy. Not “them,” but not “us.” We are all called to be ministers. All called to fill a role, bring our gifts to edifying those surrounding us.

For His glory, and our joy in Him, right?

That whole discussion reaffirmed this to my mind. But also showed me in such dramatic detail, how much of a challenge it can be to communicate truths I so take for granted. 

I am excited to continue to learn and grow through this mission experience! 

Please continue to pray for me as I start my first day at Amsterdam YWAM today! I’m excited to meet the community I will spend the next few months with, overjoyed to be unpacking my suitcases and finally settling in a bit, and intrigued to learn what exactly I will be learning and doing in these coming days. My updates may get spotty from here, but never fear, as soon as the dust settles I plan to keep you filled in on adventures to come!

   
  

(And as I’m sure you’ve seen from the pictures, Giants Causeway was pretty phenomenal too!)
 

Song for today:

 

4 Comments

  1. HI Shannon, Sounds like your trip is off to a great and beautiful start! Your pictures reminded me of our time in those gorgeous parts of N Ireland and the friends we made there . I think your new Irish friend can certainly recognize a holy woman of God who is deeply committed to His service even though she might not be called to be a cloistered nun! I pray you continue to have many more holy encounters with the holy ones He sends you to tell you of His love.

    Love ya, lynne >

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