Atlanta has brought refreshment, renewal, and rest to my spirit and body. Effects from the constant strain of living downtown Chicago weren’t fully evident to me until I was removed.
Now the warmth of the weather and people of the south blesses my heart and provides newfound energy. I pray we will be as much of a blessing to this place as it has already been to us. I hope this season of reduced noise will bring increased clarity, focus, and the ability for God’s voice to shine through our lives with renewed radiance.
I’ve already found that when my home environment isn’t exhausting I am able to do more. And when I think of lightening the loads of others it doesn’t fatigue or overwhelm me. It’s clear we are being refueled. Our capacity is expanding.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,for I am gentle and humble in heart,and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.Matthew 11:28-30
Since our Grateful Goodbyes Party in Chicago and the 600 mile move south to Atlanta, a lot has changed. And a lot has been learned.
One of the lessons already learned is how important it is to have a lack of judgement:
Not the intellectual kind. The judgmental kind.
In the north we heard rumors of the south having a religion not a faith, and that Christianity was only cultural. But when we arrived in the south we found alive and healthy churches. In the south we’ve heard Christians put northern churches into categories, generalizations, or lights that aren’t positive. But my experience with churches in Chicago was so overwhelmingly positive that it shaped my faith and character.
This has shown me that whether north or south, Christian or non-Christian, I think we’d all agree that judgement isn’t attractive. Or helpful. In fact even God Himself, the only One who can judge, didn’t come to earth to be judgmental of us.
God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.John 3:17
No one wants to be the sinner, the lost, the villain, or the charity case. I assume instead that everyone wants to be heard and for their journey to be honored.
My heart is comforted with the affirmation that the simple lessons we learned in Chicago of loving homeless as friends without judgement, applies for how we can treat everyone everywhere we go. My heart is also comforted that we don’t have to grasp for God’s will in our lives: if we just keep loving Him, and keep loving others, He will show us what step is next.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heartand with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment.And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’Matthew 22: 37-39
Maybe it’s good for people to move now and then. To a place where things aren’t where we came from, so we’re forced to decide whether our former lives were just a product of the environment or who we really are. Even though I may not understand “who I am” this side of heaven, I know who I don’t want to be: judgmental, critical, or careless with my words.
And that includes toward myself. Accepting this season of rest and reflection has been humbling, and I’ve had to repeatedly reject the temptation to seek control by jumping into new involvements without first listening. I want to join God on His adventure not demand He join me on mine. Culture tells us to do more, but doing less has allowed me to hear God and humbly acknowledge He is the One with the great ideas, plans, and power to help us accomplish any good thing. And waiting on Him is never a waste of time.
Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him.Psalm 37:7
When we are removed from what we know it can help ensure our faith hasn’t become religion, cultural, or only fits and “feels right” at a particular church. But rather that we “find ourselves” in Him alone. That we aren’t defined by who knows us, or what they know us to be, but just a simple ongoing pursuit of who He is.
That character consistency and powerful focus regardless of environment is attractive to me. It’s Christ over culture. It’s unchanging. Reliable.
Moving to a completely new environment and observing the different culture around me, even in the church, has forced me to focus on God alone. And in this new season I can say I have truly enjoyed doing more listening than talking, learning than teaching, and loving than judging.