In This City

“One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, becauseĀ I have many people in this city.'” -Acts 18:9-10

At this point, Paul was getting pretty frustrated. He tried to preach to the Jews in the synagogues, but they wouldn’t have any of it. He continued to spread the message, continued to be faithful to the Gospel, but I imagine it was tiring, hard work. Until God gave him this little nudge on the shoulder, and it was like that second wind you get when you’re up past midnight working on that English paper and you down another cup of coffee to give you that caffeine boost.

What stuck out to me in this verse wasn’t God telling Paul to keep going, to speak out no matter what, not even that He was with him. I like the last little bit: “no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.”

Basically, God is telling Paul that he is not alone. We hear so much about God being all that we need, and that’s good and wonderful and we should absolutely trust Him as our Provider… but sometimes that thought can be less comforting than it is isolating. If all I need is God, and He already knows everything about me and my life, then I don’t need to worry about establishing an authentic, Christ-pursuing community around me. There are some burdens we aren’t meant to carry alone, and we’re rightfully taught to give those up to God, but I think that He often carries them through other people.

God has many people in this city. I know that’s true of the city where I live, because I’m privileged enough to have some of them in my life. I’ll admit, I worry a little about what will happen when I leave behind my wonderful church and beautiful underclassmen friends and enter the world of college with all its new faces. But this verse gives me confidence that God will have many people in whatever city I end up in. Maybe many will mean three gathering for a Bible study over coffee once a week, and maybe it will mean a megachurch. But He will give me a family; I’m sure of that.

Family is the best thing we can be in and the best thing we can be for someone. For some, a sucky home life has ruined this image, but the true meaning of family runs much deeper than blood relations. It is the people who love you just as you are, who fight for you, who may not agree with you but are always on your side. It is those who see you, know you, and stay with you. It’s a “no matter what” thing, and it’s something we are called to be a part of. “Alone” was never meant to be a word in the Christian vocabulary, but not only because our Savior is always by our side. It’s because He uses those who speak aloud to speak His truth, those who have physical hands to hold ours as we walk through whatever rough paths we face. We are never alone. God has many people in this city.

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In Between

I so firmly feel that I belong in two places.

I know God is using me here. I’ve had the privilege of seeing girls in the small group I lead get baptized. I’ve dug my gloved hands into others’ uneaten food so that they could enjoy a church retreat (the joys of work crew, ya’ll), then played my guitar as a girl who is now one of my best friends was saved. I’ve written love letters to strangers and frantically hoped that they would change something.

And then tonight, I came home from church and sat on my bedroom floor, listening to Hillsong’s “Oceans” and looking at pictures of Haiti. And I cried and cried and cried. When I think about the needs I’m trying to fulfill by blogging or writing letters, the back of my mind rings with the question, “What about them?” What about the hungry, the thirsty, those with no hospital, those with no access to an education? Smiling faces of kids who look nothing like me press up against any defense or rationale I could ever construct.

All this is pretty much brought on by the commercial chaos that is Christmas. I understand that people want to give me things, but it makes me sick that for me to have yet another shirt, a kid somewhere is going without one. Maybe they’re sick, too, but for them it’s because they can’t afford medicine.

Part of my heart will always belong to Haiti. But the other part will always belong here. Choices approach me rapidly, from all sides, as I am asked what I want to do with my life and where I want to go to school. They say college is a fit, but if only half of me fits in America, how much of me will fit at whatever university I decide? How am I supposed to decide on a college if I can’t decide on a country?

I am in between. I fret about spending money on myself, then indulge my craving to buy the 1989 Target deluxe edition. I plan out a life here while the back of my mind dreams of a life of maxi skirts and PVC pipe showers. I can’t help but feel like the future is approaching, and I can’t help but feel like it is way too fast. There’s no wisdom for me to offer here. The problem I’ve spent the entire post setting up won’t be resolved by the end. This is not a “I’ve had an epiphany” post. It’s kind of a desperate prayer.

I don’t know where I belong. I only know the One who will be in that place, and in whatever place I have to leave behind. Maybe I’ll always be in between like this. Maybe I’ll have a dream one day and it will become abundantly clear. Quite honestly, the only two things I know about this whole ordeal are that God is good but that trusting Him is still hard. But that’s what I’ll do, day by day, as the story unfolds and I run as fast as I can toward whatever He has for me. It’s the only thing I can do. And frankly, I don’t like it all that much right now, but I know it’s going to be the best way and I hold on to the knowledge that His light is never far. And I run. Blindly. And I’ll stumble and then get back up, because grace is propelling me forward to something better. I don’t know what it is yet. It may change a couple times. Knowing me, and after writing an entire post basically about indecision, it will definitely change at least once. And I wish I knew for certain, but the only certain thing in life is the love of Jesus, and I have to be okay with that. I don’t know all the answers, but I know the One who does, and I guess that’s all I can ask for.