I was sitting by the pool at the hotel this morning, the man-made waterfall making gushing noises behind me and I began reflecting on the changes that occur in a lifetime or two.
The Republic of France has a statue to Queen Victoria in the city of Nice, it strikes me as odd. Odd that no statue of any of its own kings or queens are present and yet a foreign queen is put on a pedestal. The Tsars of Russia are equally represented in the names of the streets in Cannes, Antibes and Nice. Getting a history lesson from our guide Robert reminded me there were three Napoleons, I had quite forgotten about numbers two and three. GCSE History did not stay in my head past the examination thirty five years ago.
What did this area look like when these northern leaders chose the south of France as a winter retreat? How did the French people embrace them? What was it like to be a rural dweller whose land was swallowed up by the huge residences or the royal entourages? Did the gene pool change as a result of this influx of northern blood? What does a place look like when it has been taken over by a foreign influence?
It took me on a journey of thinking of my own life. Long ago the Kingdom of God was shown to me, clearly by the Lady. The love that she had for Jesus and the love that God had for her infused her every gesture. She was never anything other than a vessel of the fruit of the Spirit. But the foreign invaders of the land showed me an easy way, a life of easy come, easy go, a life with no cost, no heavy decisions and I fell over the waterfall into a different way of living.
In recent years I firmly placed my feet in the Kingdom once more, unwavering in my stance. Steadfast as the foreign tried to lure me once more. No, no never, no more as the Wild Rover sang. I am swimming against the tide of bland, vapid wishy washiness.
The palm trees in Cannes were imported but are now a symbol for its town. The hotels; full of marble and false veneer sneer vacuously at the shabby old huts of old. Once there were fields of sugar cane and now there are streets where any kind of candy – legal or illegal can be obtained. The facades of the decadent stores full of designer clothes no sane person would wear let alone fork out for. The cars; a symbol of success in this world parade up and down the streets chugging over-carburised fumes at the people whilst stuck in traffic. Yellow and orange Lotuses, black Porsches and red Ferraris line the streets but do not move any faster than the small Smart car in front.
Holidays are false, no amount of sun and sea can stop a person yearn for the clatter of their own pans in their own kitchen. No amount of sun cream can truly protect the skin from the ravages of solar rays. We get thrust together with a bunch of people and sometimes friendships are made that last from holiday to holiday but sometimes it is wonderful to think of home and real friendships.
Abram changed, he followed God on a journey and changed his name to Abraham, changed from fruitless to father, changed from anyone to beloved, a treasured possession of the Lord. Peter changed, from burly fisherman to great orator and Apostle.
We change, the past no longer defines us. The present, living each moment of our lives for the glory of God. We are not man-made, we do not flow with the current of popular culture. We are set apart from this world and we do not accept the candy of the world. As changed people, we look at the man-made structures and wonder what God intended when he built his church. It has changed so often over the centuries. With each season someone proposes a new way of “doing” church and yet I yearn for us all to “be” church, to be seen as something different not a set of rules but as a sanctuary of grace, of love and of acceptance.
Reflecting on my holiday in the sun, where I opened books for the pleasure of reading for the first time in five years, where I ate the same dish in many different restaurants and cafes, where I guided the Boy 20,000 steps each day, I ponder on the things I have missed whilst being here and I think of the things that I have not missed at all.
The waterfall continues to gush, it has been the soundtrack of this man-made sojourn. I yearn for the soundtrack of my own home – of birds, bees and crickets. I yearn for that silence of the thin places, where heaven and earth touch. I yearn to delve deeper into my life with God, plunging under the façade of the waterfall and fall further in love with scripture and the living God I serve. I rest more in that place than any sun holiday can ever provide and I love it.