After moving eight times in my twenty-one years of life, I’ve witnessed a vast array of landscapes. I was born in Florida, with its leafy palm trees and heat-scorched grass. I grew up in Chicago and Toronto, surrounded by meticulously trimmed lawns and snow-coated branches. So when I felt that God was calling me to study in Ireland, I felt the thrill of knowing that a “new horizon” awaited me—both figuratively and literally. I had visited the country a few years prior, and I’d loved the rolling hills and immersive greenery. I couldn’t wait to move again.
“It’s going to be difficult,” my parents warned. “There’s a pandemic raging. You’ll miss your old friends; you won’t be able to meet people. Your life is going to be lonely.” I assured them that I didn’t mind being alone. After all, I’d always prided myself on being independent. I would enjoy the change, I insisted. I was sick of Canadian winters. I would be fine. I thought I could handle just about anything.
Flash forward three months into my new life in Dublin. I had moved three times already, and hopelessness had swallowed up my self-confidence. At my first place, my housemate, a married man, repeatedly made advances towards me, even after I told him I wasn’t interested. A fraudulent landlord caused me to move from my second place. This third move, at the brink of my sanity, resulted in living with a woman who despised me. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, and my face was breaking out like crazy. I spent weeks crying in bed, begging my mother to let me come back home. I didn’t know what to do, but there wasn’t much to do anyways. Stores, restaurants, and museums were all closed due to COVID. When I realized that I’d spent a whole week indoors, I managed to drag myself out of my blanket, get dressed, and go for a walk.
Despite my self-pity, I felt my spirits rising in the open air. The first thing I noticed was the greenery. As I’d lived in Canada for the last eleven years, I was all too familiar with frozen Novembers. But in Ireland, the trees, bushes, and grass still looked as vibrant as when I first arrived in September. I sat on a park bench and didn’t even think to plug in my headphones; instead, I looked around and listened to the mingled breeze and birds. When I looked down, I couldn’t help but smile at the tiny brown sparrows flitting about the bushes. When I looked up, I caught myself admiring the serene, deep blue of the sky.
I had prayed before this moment, of course. I’d prayed that God would let me move back to Canada ASAP, that he would cure my bouts of insomnia, and that he would make my new housemate like me. I had only ever asked him to fix things. Yet now as I sat and stared at the clear sky—like a blank page in my diary—the words of an old hymn floated in my mind:
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
Not even the world’s beauty could express the extent of God’s love for me. I was surprised to realize how I’d forgotten this so easily. When was the last time I simply praised him? Once again, I began to cry, but these weren’t tears of anger or resentment. I was filled with peace, joy, and gratitude.
Not even the world’s beauty could express the extent of God’s love for me.
In the smallness of my room, my problems had felt suffocating. I didn’t “feel” God. Truthfully, I hadn’t in a while. All I felt was the weight of my troubles. Mercifully, the greatness of nature, both in its scale and its splendor, gave me a fresh perspective. Despite the intensity of my feelings, out on that park bench I was able to remember this hymn—which echoes the Bible itself—and the reality of God’s love for me.
Nature, with its ever-changing seasons, is a constant reminder of God’s gracious presence. He created the world—every mountain, wave, creature, and tree. As I explore Howth Cliff Walk, the Dublin mountains, or stroll along the trees at Phoenix Park, I remember that the Lord over the earth is also Lord over me. That doesn’t make my problems any less real, but it does put things into perspective. He had guided me from Florida to Chicago, from Chicago to Toronto, and now from Toronto to Dublin; why do I doubt his faithful provision?
Even if my housing issues remained unresolved—if my housemate and I never got along, or if my exhaustion persisted—the image of God’s love being inscribed on the sky inspired tranquility in my heart. God, who orchestrates the gloomy, rainy days in Ireland, had allowed these trials to enter my life for a reason. I didn’t know why just yet, but his creation attested to the certainty that spring follows winter. If he looked after the sparrows, then I knew that he also cared and looked after me.
After I clumsily wiped away thankful tears, I lifted my hands. In prayer, I surrendered my past confidence, my present disappointments, and my hopes for the future, placing them into God’s hands. As I reflected on the evergreen foliage around me, with its perpetual clusters of leaves, flowers, and fruits, he reminded me that his love is likewise unwavering, ever-present. Unlike the affections of my friends and family, who were now so far away, he was (and is) with me. I had no need to fear anything.
My situation did not miraculously improve overnight. My relationship with my housemate even took a turn for the worse, but in his timing, God provided new accommodation through a friend from church. I filed a police report regarding my second landlord, but I have yet to see the results. Nevertheless, each morning when I wake, I look out my window to appreciate God’s creation. I see the crowds of birds of all shapes and sizes on my neighbour’s roof. I see the bright green hedges that surround the houses. I see the distant silhouettes of wind-swept trees. Whether it’s raining or the sun is shining, whether the air is clear or thick with fog, God is teaching me to thank him for his love.