Back to the City: Sydney

by - 2:55 PM

I had the privilege of staying two nights in Sydney city with a dear Brazilian friend. Well, I say ‘dear’ because she is truly such a lovely, lovely person – awfully kind to have let a near-stranger like me into her apartment home in the gorgeous Neutral Bay in Sydney city. But the truth is, I had only met Elaine Cruz once last year when I was travelling in Sydney and sitting along the Bronte coast (close to Bondi Beach). We started chatting and turns out we shared the same faith and similar perspectives on life! She was also another one of those impossibly youthful-looking Brazilians. I guessed she was 22 years old – but turns out she was turning 30! Impossible.

But anyway, we had kept in touch on Facebook and when I told her I’d be coming up the East Coast this summer, she cordially invited me to bunk in with her! The exciting thing is she’ll also be joining me when I travel up to the Whitsunday Coast. Can hardly wait!

After living in the beautiful tranquillity of the Blue Mountains for a week, I must say that coming to Sydney city after was a near mistake. It nearly threatened to sabotage the peace I acquired while up in the quiet of the mountains! I found Sydney to be so unbelievably noisy! It was hectic and loud; full of crowds and busy people. The traffic was busy all the time and you couldn’t escape the blaring sounds of the buses and cars and trains all contributing to the perpetual droning hum of this lively city.

I learnt quite a bit about myself even in this few days. I realized that I was actually much better off in a quiet place. And that I actually did not mind solitude. I do not choose solitude simply to escape the crowds and the noise of the city’s hectic pace. I choose places of solitude in order to tune in to God’s voice. It sounds ridiculous maybe, but that is my firm conviction. I think this is what I have been doing even when I was back in Melbourne, even when I was younger and homeschooled back in Malaysia, and even now. I know this is a discipline I will continue for the rest of my life. I don’t think I’d be able to survive living without withdrawing once in a while from all the doing and going about of daily life. I always need this time out to think and reflect; to talk to God and to allow His still, small voice to speak to me and teach me new things about myself, about the world, about my relationships, about the truth.

And yet, I am also learning that it actually doesn’t matter where I am. Even in the noisy surrounds of the city, I can find a quiet sanctuary – within my heart, and in my mind. It all starts with your thoughts and your inward desires. If you are willing, you can make that space within you and allow God to fill it with His presence – His peace, light, truth and love. That is what keeps me alive – truly. So it doesn’t matter where I am. I could be in a party, in a huge crowd, in a bus or train; I could be in the mountains or back at home; I could be at university or somewhere lying on a quiet beach. The outward location doesn’t matter. To a certain extent, it may affect the ability of the inward nature to stay focused and stay still, but ultimately, I am learning the importance of being able to find that quiet sanctuary within my heart and mind no matter where I may be. This is an invaluable lesson.

Also, I learnt that the world and the crowds do not and will not care to know you – and by that, I mean to truly know you. That’s why so many of the rich and famous and ‘successful’ people (as well as us ordinary folk) are actually in secret despair. Because there is no comfort – true comfort and peace – in fame, wealth, power, ambition or even relationships. They are all fleeting. One must learn to put the first things first, then everything else – money, position, accomplishment, talent, relationships – will fall into its rightful place and one would be able to handle them with humility and discipline. I realize that in the end, all these ‘things’ we accumulate and strive for will eventually pass away. We cannot take it to the grave. The only unshakeable, immutable constant is God! In the end, these three remain: faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these, is love.

To be honest, I felt weary after just three days living in Sydney. The whole atmosphere sucked the life and peace out of me. I could be hiking all day in the mountains and feel refreshed, regenerated even though those activities were physically tiring. They were spiritually nourishing. I realized that the city scene definitely isn’t the life for me. Well, at least not for long! I felt genuinely choked, stifled – simply put, inwardly harassed!

I think if I went back to Kuala Lumpur (strange to think now that it is my hometown), I would feel doubly worse!

Anyhow, I ultimately thank God with all my heart for teaching me what it means to be still: to listen to His voice and shut out the world’s noise. I am still learning. I will still have to learn this over and over again. Because urban life always has a way of sucking me into its lifeless demands and pressures. It drags me on to do and do and do, but steals me away from the experiences of sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening – in order to know what and how to do!

~ J a n i e ll e

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