So at our morning worship gatherings, Gary’s been speaking about “the city”. In our case, Nashville, but the Scriptures and teaching can apply to any city, town, or village. It’s really had me thinking.
I hated Nashville the first time I visited. I don’t know what it was exactly, but something just didn’t sit right with me. I was weirded out by all the churches on every corner and had to keep asking people to repeat themselves because I couldn’t understand the Southern accent yet. I remember thinking when I got back home to New Mexico, Lord, PLEASE don’t ever make me live there!
Well, we all know what that means.
I’ve lived in Nashville exactly 4 years this week.
There are many things I still dislike about it here. I still experience more culture shock here in the South than I ever did in Asia. It still bothers me that I have to remember there’s a difference between “church people” and “followers of Christ” (although I think I’d run into that just about anywhere). I’ve grown more used to the fact that as “just a singer” I’m a dime a dozen here, but I still don’t really like it. I hate that the majority of my family and best friends live in other time zones. And I really could go on.
But lately I’ve taken more to heart Jeremiah 29:4-13:
Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon,
‘Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce.
‘Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease.
‘Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’
“For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream.
‘For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them,’ declares the LORD.
“For thus says the LORD, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place.
‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.
‘Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.
‘You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
There have been many times I’ve felt like God has sent me into a great, big, desert wilderness. Strangely, I seem to do better in these times because I’m forced to rely on Him even more. It’s when things are going well that I get the idea I can sort of handle a few things myself. (HA!)
Nashville has, at times, felt like a place of exile to me. But over the past year or so, I’ve felt more like it’s becoming “home”. God’s still working on me, but I feel like I’m becoming more interested in the “welfare,” or shalom, of this place. I definitely am becoming more aware of the people here who are trustworthy and those whom I may need to investigate a bit more before I believe them. And I am slowly seeing bits and pieces of God’s unfolding plans for my life coming to fruition. I feel more aware of the constant mingling of His Spirit in every moment of each day (even the really crummy parts).
I still don’t necessarily LOVE it here. But I’m growing more OK with it as time passes.