I have been thinking lots about Italy lately. More specifically our time in Napoli and what we saw and experienced there. It change my life, my theology, my priorities.
It changed my mind.
So in the midst of my day dreaming of Italy I remembered that I had written down some of my thoughts about being in Napoli and the impact it had on me. So indulge me if you will, as I continue to day dream and wish and hope to return one day.
Napoli, Southern Italy:
in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius,
to the north of the Amalfi Coast.
saturated with drugs,
overwhelmed with crime.
Poor, overcrowded, dirty.
Surrounded by broken, marginalised, desolate people. Difficult and frightening, constantly confronted with the realities of a culture tainted by the Camorra and plagued with drugs.
But Napoli is also a place of great beauty.
On one of my days off I travelled south through Napoli to the Amalfi Coast, very aware of Vesuvius always hovering somewhere in my peripheral vision. Mount Vesuvius is daunting and intimidating; yet it is a beautiful part of Napoli’s landscape.
The Amalfi Coast is spectacular by any standards – sheer cliff faces dropping down to the water, picturesque little towns and rolling hills of lemon groves and olive trees.
It is stunning part of the world, riddled with beauty and contradictions.
After spending a good part of the day wandering through the little towns, chatting with locals and drinking a lot of espresso, I walked down through Sorrento to the sea wall. The place where the water hits the land along this part of the coast is not particularly impressive, but the combination of the hills, the cliffs and Mount Vesuvius in the background, combined to generate not only a beautiful place, but a suspended moment in time.
Perhaps God only became obvious
in that moment in direct contrast
to the horror we were encountering
Perhaps it was the enormity of the surroundings
or just the simple fact that it was quiet.
But the presence of God was tangible and definite.
Every day God was necessarily and actively present in the lives of the people around us, but His presence was intimidating and intertwined in what surrounded me at the bottom of that cliff face.
In the vastness of the geographical features, the enormity of God became a glaring and concrete concept. There was no doubt that the Creator God was present, not only amidst this place, but that He was this place. It was a startling realisation, clawing at my fundamental understanding that God loved humanity while only being vaguely concerned with our geographical context. I was confronted with the idea that the image of the Creator God could be found in places other than humans. It was not just an awareness of God being present; it seemed more like a declaration of His influence on what surrounded me and his intimate involvement in it. God wasn’t using the environment as a means to an end or as a tool to get my attention. Where I was, was the point.
I caught a moment of God’s vastness. He was immense, and He was present. And in light of the everyday dealings with drug addiction and Camorra related crime I was exposed to, that’s what I needed to see.