Sacred Revelations (2011)

 

In 2011, I traveled to Russia with Karen, the person who is now my wife.

Under the blanket of autumn, expectations from a place paralleled the dropping temperatures. But surprises changed those expectations for the better as well. We were greeted with kindness and roughness, both astonished and humbled us. Even with the challenges posed by language, a sense of fellowship emerged from these encounters as the visible differences and similarities between people seem to equalize everything. Because of that, we learned all the more to receive.

Pre-conceived ideas are often met with mediocrity as a country reveals herself, but they have a purpose of dissolving initial barriers. By shedding away all the images and words that came before, a different pace for contemplation opened up. It was a chance to start fresh, to see Russia with our own eyes.

A month may be an unforgiving timeframe to fully know a country. But halfway through, it did not matter anymore whether food, monuments or ballerinas misaligned with grandeur, for these are the obvious layers. The transition from frenzied desperation to a hushed expansion of the soul took place with gradual awareness.

We can look back on experiences and amplify their blessings.

I can’t forget the vivid colors of dusk that surrounded a monastery. Lamp lights in the distance appeared like a catalogue of stars planted on earth. A monk who stood by the gate, invited us for some tea. I recall the mother and young boy who were in the kitchen, patiently waiting to take home a few slices from the enormous pizza that was resting on the table. Over dinner, the monk answered our questions and reciprocated curiosity. He then took some candles, wicks burned by the Holy Fire of Jerusalem, and gave the bundle to us.

The people who took the time to show us around their city, each one with their own set of bright dreams which reflected onto ours. Each one, sharing with us their favorite places in the city.

The homes we stayed in, each filled with the warmth of objects that peered into the personal history of their owners. The windows which allowed sunlight to further ripen our spirits after a rainy day. Our daily walks, sometimes with crowds, sometimes with solitude, how it all strengthened our legs and exercised our vision.

And I will remember mornings where we would prepare a hearty breakfast that was always accompanied by bread, how we had important conversations that stretched on until the afternoon. I love those mornings, because they allowed me to clearly see what it would be like to live with your best friend, the one you love.

I could say more, but whenever people ask us about Russia, by default, it is about the weather or language. Only because we don’t know where to begin, and it is difficult to find eloquence in describing the very personal blessings bestowed by this trip. We went in search of stories, and returned to discover our very own. We saw the world, and then we looked inward through the lens of our union. By faith in words, by noticing the gentle rhythm of time and feeling the embrace of a Higher power, the gaps diminish, we are brought so much closer.

All this, I carry into the future, with care, with gratitude and with grace.