Jinqiao - A "suburban" part of Shanghai near our apartment.The main commercial district of the area in which I live would rival some of my country’s major regional urban centers, but in Shanghai, it is considered suburban – quiet, even. After having finally made it to the part of Shanghai I’ve always seen in pictures, I understand why. Have you ever seen one of those nature films where an enormous school of fish are swirling around, creating one chaotic mass in order to confuse the hungry sharks who’d like to make a meal out of them? The streets of Puxi at night may as well be the deep blue.

The seizure-inducing lights of Nanjing Road, the beautiful historic architecture of the Bund, and the larger than life, super-futuristic skyline of Pudong just across the river had me so captivated that I returned the next day to do my studying and prepping for the youth group. Before entering the coffee shop where I would do my work, I walked around exploring and taking photos of all the breathtaking views that met me at every turn. I was quite satisfied with the shots I got, and I know I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of all this city has to offer my camera.

East Nanjing Road, in the heart of the city.As I was in the coffee shop, praying and writing, it occurred to me how easily I can become like a mindless moth, thoughtlessly darting toward the dazzling lights of this most dynamic of cities, completely unwary of the danger that lies ahead. The desires of the flesh and of the eyes, pride in possessions – it’s all present in abundance here in this extravagant town. Yet, while it is wise to be sober-minded, I certainly have no intention of delving into asceticism and not taking advantage of all the things that God has given me greatly to enjoy. Instead, I am taking the opportunity to meditate on God’s kindness to me.  Every good and perfect gift comes from him, after all.

I am overwhelmed and humbled by God’s kindness.  He has already saved my soul and made me his son, a co-heir with Christ, and this alone is unfathomable!  But God has also seen fit to put me in my ideal setting.  Shanghai satisfies everything that I love about a city.  It’s dynamic and cosmopolitan.  It has cutting-edge modern architecture, yet a wealth of grand old-world buildings and narrow streets with eclectic shops and cafes.  It has regular cultural events of every kind.  It is a dense, walkable city with excellent public transportation.  And it’s in China!

This is indeed God’s kindness to me.  He could have easily gotten so much glory out of my life without ever letting me come here.  But he didn’t make me choose between him and my personal preferences.  He is allowing me to live this life while living for him.  I really am living life more abundantly, and I know there’s so much more in store.

I love how transcendent, how uncontained God is.  There are urbanites in gargantuan Chinese cities, middle-class families in suburban America, and goat herders on Peruvian mountains all being conformed to the image of Christ, even though their lives share almost no resemblance.  I’m glad it’s this way.  I’m glad I am in the most gargantuan Chinese city.  And the best part is that I am destined for an infinitely more glorious city: one with foundations whose builder and maker is God.  And Shanghai, in all its splendor, doesn’t hold a candle to New Jerusalem!