Exactly one year ago today I moved to Nashville…

Here are some thoughts on what has happened in the past 365 days in the Music City.

I’ve been preparing for this day for a while, to reflect back on the person I was when I hopped in my 2002 Honda Civic (that broke down on top of Monteagle, by the way) and headed on a new adventure with the Nashville Fellows Program.

I look back at the person I was. A seemingly normal, middle-class white male who appeared to have it all together. I was taking a gap year, intentionally, to better myself and “start well” in my journey of life, as the Fellows Initiative states.

But I think what I took away went much deeper than some theological training. I learned (and am constantly learning) to be a better person. Not by doing good more or by doing bad less, but by seeking to holistically own my mistakes and rest more deeply in the grace I’ve been shown.

That hasn’t always been easy.

I’ve wondered why I took the plunge to leave many of the comforts I’ve known to embark on a new adventure in Nashville. I think in part it was because humans are built for community, and I deeply wanted to be seen and known by someone new who I didn’t have to prove myself to.

I think part of it was found in my newfound desire for adventure: to quench the thirst of taking a risk and wading into my own discomfort to see if the reward outweighed the possible risk. I think deep down we all crave adventure. Some of us are just quicker to hop off the diving board, while others take a bit more coaxing to leap into the unknown.

And part of it just felt right. I didn’t have to have fear because I felt so led and called to this place. That doesn’t mean it was a cakewalk, but it made the trusting come much easier when I found assurance in knowing I was going where I was supposed to be.

And as I’ve entered back into my story over the past year, I’ve wanted to go back and change my story time and time again. To make myself cope with loss better. To make myself know that I have worth and I matter, regardless of what I do. To believe my worth lies in my personhood, not in what I can produce.

Through my disbelief of those sentences above, I’m finding myself believing them more and more each day as I let them soak and permeate my soul.

So, here’s a few snippets of what I’ve learned about myself over the past year:

Counseling is a good thing: after growing up with an impeccably confusing family story, I’m finding that the only way to overcome those deep hurts and wounds that I have hidden myself from is to enter back into them. That means entering back into relationships that have been toxic in my life in hopes of bringing about redemption and reconciliation. As an image-bearer of God, I’m called to be a creator and restorer … that means both in my vocation and in my relationships. If I believe God doesn’t do anything on accident, I’m left to trust that I have the story I have for a reason, and by wading back into it and finding ways to seek healthiness within a family context, I can imitate my true Father by doing my part, owning my wrong, and helping to restore what was broken relationally.

Community done well is beautiful: I don’t think I’ve realized how much God has created me to be a relational being as I have this summer. The relationships I’ve found myself in — from roommates, to new friends, to coworkers — have challenged me and pushed me into healthiness like I’ve never known before. I’ve had to have some extremely difficult conversations. And even the ones where I’ve had to own my misdoings, I’ve found the relationship is not torn to pieces, but is mended. See, I’ve taken C-4 to so many relationships in the past because of my fear of confrontation. But confrontation isn’t inherently negative. In fact, it means two fronts (people) coming together to look at an issue. There doesn’t have to be a winner or loser. There can simply be relationship done well where there’s nothing to be feared and no shame to be had because that person sees you and knows you and says, “I’m not going anywhere.” That’s what I’ve found. People who won’t leave me when I fail them. There’s so many gospel parallels here, and it is a wonderful and joyous thing to enjoy.

Your work matters: As someone who found his identity in his job title while pursuing a degree in school, this is a big change from last year. I think I grasped the idea that my job as a writer mattered to God, but I always saw myself on the B- or C-Team, not the A-Team where pastors and nonprofit employees are. But as I have reflected this year, and as I begin a new journey with the Nashville Institute for Faith and Work (where I work as an Administrative and Communications Assistant), I see that all work matters and that we’re all on the A-Team. What an enormous sigh of relief. I wrestled with guilt daily over my decision to be a journalism major. I felt like God could use me for such better things if only I ended up as a pastor or as a journalist for a faith-based magazine. God himself was the originator for work: he first introduced himself as a worker (Genesis 1) and he creates a existence and restores order to it day by day. It’s not just that faith-based work matters to God, all work does. To the engineer who makes lives easier by inventing nuances for vehicles: your work matters to God. To the painter who creates images and paintings that give us hope and stirs our longing for beauty: your work matters to God. To the doctor who follows in the footsteps of Jesus by healing the sick and fighting against the decay of sin in the world: your work matters to God. To the CEO who employs those that have been incarcerated to provide them with a second chance and instills them with the dignity of a job: your work matters to God.

This past year was a game-changer for me. And, honestly, I don’t know where I’ll be this time next year. I’d assume it will be Nashville, but one thing this year has taught me is that while I should be committed to the places God has called me to, I shouldn’t white-knuckle them. As Woody Allen once said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” Until it’s time for the next big move, my plans are to dig in, grit my teeth, and create beauty and initiate redemption in Nashville.

That sounds like a pretty rad plan to me.

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