A Fiat In Copenhagen

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By Catherine Swope

Last May I took a trip with two very good friends to Northern Ireland.  Like any seasoned (and a little poor) college student, I had spent weeks scouring the web for the very best deal on a flight.  The all-encompassing search paid off when we found incredibly cheap tickets…and only for the minor inconvenience of visiting three countries en route to our destination. Feeling anything but inconvenienced, I found myself happily aboard a plane to Copenhagen, Denmark.  Now let me just make things very clear…we are talking ‘granola bars from Aldi/borrowed rain jacket from mom/literally your last $100 bucks’ kind of vacation that usually only crazy twenty-something’s attempt. 

So Copenhagen it was...the city of all things comfortable and aesthetically pleasing.  I mean these people literally have made up their own word for ‘cozy,’ and we ate. it. up. For one afternoon we walked the streets of that sweet city—stopping in little nests of coffee shops, picking out decadent desserts we discovered behind the windows, grabbing pizza at one of those outdoor European cafes literally made for tourists (the ones that have blankets on the chairs and soft candles burning on the tables).  And it was fantastic; truly an experience I will never forget. I was quickly reminded why I always make the effort to travel.  I felt wonder swell up inside of me and spill out via laughter over iced lattes.  Inspiration and joy almost knocked the wind out of me as we snapped candid shots of our own feet dangling over uncharted deep blue waters.  That evening, as I stepped foot back into the airport and onto the next plane, I was filled with gratitude, warmth, and excitement for all that was to come, both that trip and for the rest of my life. Then, something terrible happened. I connected to the free Wifi and haphazardly pulled up that dreaded bank app and felt my heart sink.  

Turns out the Danish Krone got the best of us: that iced lattes and mediocre pizza cost a tad (A LOT) more than expected. All too quickly, my head filled with dollar signs.  I became overwhelmed and anxious and everything that you shouldn’t be when you are 22 and en route to explore old castles in Scotland.  But overwhelmed I was, and I let the anxiety swallow me alive. I dragged my feet off the plane and into the customs line until finally my sweet friend looked at me and realized that something was up. As we made our way through customs and into a new country, together, we untangled the mess. By the time we were snuggled under fluffy comforters with Earl Grey in hand that evening, I found myself in possession of much more than tea and physical warmth.  My peace was back and so was that zeal and excitement for life that Copenhagen has stirred deep within me. But it was stronger than before. I had learned a powerful lesson about peace: primarily that it was mine to keep or to give away. That for the rest of my life, I would be presented with any and every excuse to be swallowed alive by darkness, by fear, by money, by pieces that don’t fit together, by situations that don’t make sense.  

But fear is not noble, darkness is not kind, and every single tiny moment matters. 

Last week we celebrated the feast of all feasts—the birth of Christ into the world and the great and incomprehensible Incarnation, when the ground shook and stars exploded with light and nothing would ever be the same because Mary held in her arms the tiniest, most mysterious, most unexpected key to the universe—and under the most insane circumstances: a virgin mother, a poor carpenter, an empty barn. This Christmas the powerful story comes to us yet again, and the message can be made new for us by God Himself as he makes all things new. Nine months before, Mary softly proclaimed, ‘Let it be.’ The great and quiet Fiat. She had no idea what was coming….that her sweat and cries would mix with hay and dirt on that first Christmas. That thousands of innocent baby boys would be slaughtered in the search for her son. That her heart would break like none other have ever broken before. That she would be crowned and honored as Queen for all of eternity. 

Now it might seem silly and insignificant to speak of overpriced pizza and a poor excuse for a saving account at a time like this, but it is oh so significant because Mary’s fiat—the ‘let it be’ that shook the universe—happened under the most ordinary of circumstances. She was remarkably ordinary, as each of us are when it really comes down to it. What made her extraordinary was her relentless trust in the both the little things and the big things. Our own ‘let it be’ is a noble calling to the same ordinary but difficult trust. 

What does trust look like? Sometimes trust looks like turning off your phone and shelling out the last foreign coin for a chocolate croissant, and sometimes it looks like saying yes to becoming the mother of God without having the smallest semblance of an idea of how it will all work itself out. But trust is trust and choosing peace of heart and perseverance in hope is always choosing trust.  

May by the grace of God, we always be able to choose Him in the big things by choosing Him in the little things. May we never loose heart, never lose hope, and always hold tightly to the power of peace.