The end of my semester abroad in Gaming.
I can’t believe it.
So much has happened this semester. I’ve done so many new things, seen so many beautiful places, made so many new friends, and encountered the Lord in a profound way in my life.
I almost don’t want to leave this place, it almost feels like I’m not ready to yet.
But I was sitting in bed last night, talking with my roommate, and we realized something together. It’s something I think I had known since the moment I arrived, and maybe even before I left to come here, but had never really put into words. The reality, and truly the beauty, of the Austrian semester is its temporary-ness. This semester is meant to be a time unlike any other, but it has only ever been meant to be a time. At the conclusion of these next ten days, the Kartause will never be quite the same again. And this is true of every semester, because with each new group that comes here things change and are made, in a way, new. Spring 2014 was meant to be what it has been only for this very period of time, so that all of us who were a part of it could receive it as a gift.
The things that have happened during my semester here, the transformation that has taken place in my heart, is something that is going to continue to unfold far beyond when I leave. Some of the fruit of this semester might not even be realized until much later in my life. But these four months, this one semester, was meant to occur and pass away. Not into memories that will one day be reminisced with a nostalgic sadness as the glory days, but as the sturdy foundation for the rest of my life.
Because the truth is that if God brings you to Austria as part of His plan for your life, He brings you here no doubt for a reason. Not simply to have new experiences, to see Europe, or make friends. All of that happens, and is more wonderful than you could ever imagine. But He brings you here to recognize through those things how vitally essential it is to live with the understanding that in every moment passing there is a newness that is given by Him and through Him for your good. Life is an unending renewal, until finally all will be renewed in the fullness of glory at the end of time. This is the greatest lesson I think I walk away from Austria holding onto: that life isn’t just exciting and adventurous because you’re traveling around Europe and studying in Austria, but it’s exciting and adventurous because it’s truly glorious. It’s glorious in Gaming, Austria, or in Steubenville, Ohio, or in Baltimore, Maryland.
Everything that happened this semester has had a purpose. But the purpose doesn’t end when I come to the finish of these next ten days because the purpose is in the leaving too. I am going back home, like all my classmates who have spent this semester in Europe with me, sent out with the imprint of Gaming on my heart. I am going home with a new character about me; I am more fully myself because of the time I’ve spent here. God brought me to this place where I was a complete stranger, and formed a family around me. And He has worked through these people and this place in intricate and beautiful ways so that I might be made ready for what lies ahead of me back at home and in the rest of my life.
The adventure does not end with Austria, but it was in Austria that I realized that the adventure actually began a long time ago, and will continue for a long time to come.
All of my travels so far have been enlightening, teaching me things about the world and myself, both of which I am so grateful for. And as much as what I’ve experienced so far has exceeded my expectations, I did set off on this trip to Austria prepared for adventure. I was kind of ready for it, or at least ready for the unknown that it was to be. But it’s what I wasn’t expecting, the hidden treasures of life in the Kartause, that have turned out to be some of the greatest gifts so far. That’s what I want to share with you today: the unexpected gifts that I have received already from the Franciscan Austria Program. And hopefully in so doing, I’ll be able to give you a little taste of what Austria’s like for me.