I have definitely reached a point where I can feel the ebb and flow of life in Alcalá and am beginning to understand the rhythm of the city. Interestingly, I have noticed that I have mostly come to learn these things through a series of silly mistakes and consistently running into cultural differences. I have also come to have a firm belief that first impressions and gut reactions are rarely accurate.
Three nights ago, give or take, my roommate and I were out wandering the city looking for something interesting. We have done this often and we always manage to find hidden treasures that we wouldn´t have seen otherwise. On this particular night, it was raining lightly and we were on our way back to our house because it was nearing dinner time. As we walked down a street that we had traveled several times before, we were approached by two young women under an umbrella. They began to tell us that God loves us and that if I come to him, I can become a better person. Because they didn´t know that we were still learning Spanish, they talked very quickly and I only understood about 60% of what they said. They ended their spiel asking us if we´d like to join them.
Immediately my gut reaction was to say no. I was in a foreign country, talking to two people of a different religion, in a language that I don´t entirely understand. But immediately after my gut reaction came the thought that I was being very biased. I was basing my decision on previous interactions and a fear that was unjustified. So against everything ¨Past Mandy¨ would have done, I said yes. They led us into a nearby church and, handing us each a candle, led us down an aisle to kneel in front of an altar. One of them asked our names and then began to address God, praying on our behalf. By this point I had no idea what was really going on. All I knew is that these two strangers saw us walking down the street and cared enough for us to petition God to bless us. After she was done, we went through a small ceremony and they gave us each a little piece of paper with a scripture on it. I hadn´t realized how much I needed it until I read it. It said ¨El Señor te guarda de todo mal, él guarda tu alma, el Señor guarda tus entradas y salidas, ahora y por siempre¨ I looked it up in my own scriptures and the two are very similar. I had realized that I had begun to see Spain as a place where only different or strange things happen. In reality, we are all much more like than we are different. Heavenly Father cares about my well being just as much as he does any random Spaniard I find on the street, and I would do well to remember that just because I don´t understand something does not make it bad.
Had I followed my initial gut reaction, I would have not gotten the message that the Spirit obviously had in store for me that day. I´m not saying that I´m going to go join this religion; but as a seeker of truth, I believe I can find sparks of light everywhere I am, even in situations that I don´t understand or didn´t anticipate. But if I´m not willing to take the jump and allow them in, how will my flame grow brighter?