one thing in Buenos Aires

It’s a sunny, blustery, winter day in Buenos Aires and I am all cozy in my warm living room.

I don’t do it often, but every now and then I like to crack open an old journal of mine and read what I was up to on a given day in my past. I brought a few of my old journals to BA with me. Like carrying around my college years with me—every midterm, football game, road trip–it’s all chronicled there in the first person. My little victories, annoyances, fears, and prayers.

This time last year was a tough time in my life. It’s evident here on this blog. I was going through bouts of insomnia at the uncertainty what was ahead. I often found myself gritting my teeth or holding my breath, a constant ball of stress in my abdomen like the Apostle Paul’s mysterious thorn.

I eventually hit a point in which I deliriously submitted to the uncertainty, holding onto God’s sovereignty. Eventually yes, answers came and the future unfolded itself. And now here I am.

My honeymoon phase with Buenos Aires is ending. I don’t always wake up enchanted with the mere fact that I am here. But something else has moved in now. I feel at home here, comfortable. Something clicked with the language in the past few weeks and I feel at ease with Spanish. Or at least, not freaked out about it anymore. But it’s more than that.

This city is inside of me now. The smoggy air and crowded streets. The city din is no longer mind numbing. I’ve learned to inhale while passing the bakery . . . exhale as a bus passes and I’m engulfed in exhaust . . . inhale past the perfume and soap store . . . exhale past the dust of a construction side. And watch where you’re walking. (Caca de perro on the sidewalk.) These little things have become natural reactions now.

I’m starting to notice the more subtle beauty—my favorite graffiti street art, the clever names of local businesses, the kindness of strangers in the stress of all this communal living. The longer I’m here, the deeper this city is etching itself into me, the harder it is for me to believe the contrast of my life just one year ago to this now.

Every now and then in life you need to clean house. Simplify. Starting over does that.

You need to strip away the layers of wallpaper you use to cover your days and actions and relationships. You need to scrape and peel and separate until you get to the bare elements, until you find the irreducible thing.

“Purity of heart is to want one thing.” That’s a quote from the Richard Foster book I’m reading.

I think part of my problem last year—the irreducible thing—was that I wanted many conflicting things. It has taken leaving home and moving here to find singularity of purpose, to purge my heart of the banal, non-god things that accumulate naturally over time.

No doubt He will have to do it again as life settles upon me here. But it’s best to keep the heart and mind in check before stress gets too cluttery and my insides look like an episode of Hoarders.

For now I’ll keep learning this place and loving it, with my hand to my pulse, praying that “He must become greater; I must become less.”

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