Climbing Out of My Tree

After a brief stint writing in another space, I find myself back here in the comfort of this place for a variety of reasons. The biggest reason being that writing deadlines, are not my forte. Which is additional proof that my decision to not pursue journalism or some other writing major in college was the best decision for all of us. 

Now, why do I find myself back here? Well, because as usual God has been at work in ways that I couldn't fathom until yesterday. Before I explain exactly what happened yesterday, let me give you the back story of what led to this latest revelation...

One month ago, on September 30th, 2016, a dream that was 6 years in the making became a reality. Thanks to my current role at my company, I finally moved to Nashville, TN (albeit only for 6 months... for now). I was ecstatic, and literally could not wait to get down here. I have always been enthralled with the Music City and was incredibly confident that I would love every moment spent here. I can now confidently tell you, after a month of being here, that my view of what this was going to be like was highly romanticized. That's not to say that I don't still love this city, or that I'm not as excited as I once was. It's simply to say that the transition has been anything but easy to cope with.

In my head, I think I thought I was immune to the feelings of homesickness, that I would be resilient in this new place and that my social life, faith life, and general sense of community would remain as it was back home, where I had lived all of my 28 years (aside from college life). That first week was a lot of "new" to explore -- new office, new apartment, new roads, new running trails, new adventures were around every corner. It was fantastic! Then my parents came to visit, which made everything that much more real. However, about halfway through that 2nd week, reality set in.

A new office -- where I didn't really know anyone
A new apartment -- where I lived alone, without knowing any of my neighbors
New roads -- that were unfamiliar and easily confused
New running trails -- which were the only thing that quickly became comfortable
New adventures  -- which aren't quite as exciting when you're adventuring by yourself

See, for those of you that may not know me... I'm quite the extrovert. I thrive on human interaction, and usually am so busy that a random Friday night home alone is welcomed. However, when you spend the majority of your evenings alone, it starts to become overwhelmingly... lonely.

Before anyone gets worried or upset that I didn't reach out to them, I'm not talking about the same kind of loneliness I have experienced in the past. Not the kind of loneliness that finds you in a dark place. It was just out of my element, and I wasn't handling it as well as I should have been. I started to internalize a lot of things, and in turn, I started to project those same things onto the people I care about. Whether that was in the form of pestering them about trivial things, or pushing them away -- neither was healthy. Despite that I've apologized, I can't help but still feel some disappointment in myself for handling it that way. I digress - I knew at the root of all of this, was the need to find a temporary church home in Nashville. That's where I had to start building this community I craved.

I had a short list of churches - 5 to be exact. At the bottom of that list was Crosspoint. The reason this particular church was at the bottom, was because I felt like I had already been there. I've been following their (now, former) Pastor Pete Wilson for years on his blog and the books that he has written. I've also followed Carlos Whittaker (often referenced in this space) and Jon Acuff for the last 9 years, both of whom attend Crosspoint. I knew that the ministry style was very similar to the church I so dearly loved in Lexington during college, and so in order to "broaden my horizons", I stuck it at the bottom of the list so as not to overlook the other churches on my list. That was the logic in my head at least...

There's an old saying... "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" -- or in this case, if a ministry style works, don't ignore it.

On Saturday night, I made a plan for which church on my list I would attend. I didn't sleep well at all Saturday night, and I was grumpy as hell on Sunday morning when I got up. As I was trying to give myself a pep talk about getting up to make it to the 9:00 AM service at the church I had planned to attend, I felt this pull to go to Crosspoint instead. Even as I got in the truck, I was trying to argue with myself (and with God) about going to Crosspoint instead of the other church, but it was like the truck just started driving itself -- my plans for that morning be damned!

I walked into Crosspoint that morning, and while it was totally new, there was a peace about being there. There were plenty of people at the doors talking and greeting people as they walked in. One guy in particular shook my hand and introduced himself as Jordan. Asked me if I had been coming there long, and when I said this was my first time visiting, he quickly told me to follow him and took me to introduce me to a guy named Kenny. Kenny started asking questions, I mentioned I had moved from Indiana and he promptly hollered over to another guy (whose name escapes me) and said "This is Brad, he's from Indiana -- aren't you from Indiana?". While overwhelming, I couldn't help but be thankful for the welcoming these guys were showing me. Kenny and I talked a bit longer, he gave me a free coffee mug (kudos to Crosspoint for that welcoming gift!) and asked me to look for him after the service (as did Jordan before him) so I could let him know what I thought.

I grabbed some free coffee -- something I really love about the way churches are changing -- and walked into the main room (Sanctuary? Meeting room? Big Church? I don't know what they call it). I was greeted again -- these people love saying hello -- and decided to take a seat in the upper rows, middle section so I could see everything and everyone around me. I sat there for a few moments looking around the room (hoping I would spot Carlos or Jon), and checking my phone - when a lady behind me squeezed my shoulder and said "I noticed your coffee mug, glad you're here with us this morning". Thanks, me too.

All I can say about the ensuing service is -- God knew what He was doing when He directed me to Crosspoint that morning. They had a speaker who had never preached before, but absolutely killed it. His message was Biblical, Christ focused and as a speaker he was engaging, sentimental, funny, and heartwarming. He challenged me right out of the gate by simply saying that "Jesus chose us, so that we could choose others". Let the overwhelming sense of conviction commence.

I won't recap the whole message, but I highly encourage you to listen to it online. He talked about Zacchaeus and being up in the tree. Now, I had heard that story (and that annoyingly catchy song) 1000 times or more, but this was the first time it had been presented from the viewpoint that Zacchaeus had a choice to make that day. He could either stay in that tree where it was safe, and comfortable, observing Jesus and then going back to his day... OR he could accept Jesus' invitation, trust him, and enter into community with him at his house over a meal.

I'm starting to get a headache from all the times God has smacked me in the back of the head.

It was exactly what I needed to hear. You see, in many ways I am Zacchaeus and Columbus/Hope, IN is my tree. Nashville, was my invitation to trust Jesus and enter into a different kind of community with him. That's not to say I'm giving up on Columbus/Hope, or the people there that I love. I just needed to realize that I had a choice to make. I could either continue comparing this opportunity to the safety of my tree, OR I could accept Jesus' invitation to trust him, and experience some real growth as a person by diving into a new community here. I had to let go of the comfort of "this is temporary, I have friends at home" and enter into the awkwardness of "Hi I'm Brad, I'm new, and I want to make friends". So I climbed out of my tree Sunday, and put both feet on the ground of Nashville, TN. I don't know what the next 5 months hold, but I'm pretty excited about what God is going to do with me.

Just so you know, I cried my whole way to the bakery I had found nearby (and then the whole way home because it took too long and it cost too much -- thanks a lot hipsters) because I was overwhelmed by how much Jesus loves me enough to meet me where I am.

Jesus chose us, so that we could choose others.

It's better that way.

Grace and Peace

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