I've heard a lot in the last year about how God loves cities. Our church did a series on it and I read a post a while back from Hannah Brechner about how He started with a garden and ended with a city and it meant something.
Lately as I've driven to and from work, it's been dark both directions. And I've noticed that if I squint, it almost looks like I'm surrounded by Christmas lights. The tail lights are red sitting in front of me and the headlights are white dancing toward me. And each time I realize they're headlights, I feel a little sad.
Where are all of these people going? I wonder each morning. Are they going toward a job they love? Or are they sad to drive to work? Are they leaving little ones at home with a nanny? Or is their backseat full of kiddos with sticky fingers and full tummies? Did they sleep well? Are they stressed? What are they working for? For money or love or worth?
For a while, I thought I loved cities. But, as I've gotten older, I've found that they tend to overwhelm me. It's not so much the surface level things - like traffic and the effort it takes to run errands, though those things tire me every once in a while. It's the bigger issues that break my heart. It's the poverty, the hunger, graffiti and loneliness in a city that overwhelm me. It's the the fact that you can be fully and wholly surrounded by people all the time, but can feel so alone. It's that there are so many people in need, that I feel like I can't begin to dent the issues.
But, as Chris always tells me, we have to pay attention to the tension in our lives.
And city living creates tension for me. There is so much pulling at my heart - to invest in, care for, connect with. And then, there is a yearning deep inside me to lace up my shoes and run to a small rural community like my hometown in Indiana.
As I get older, I understand more every day that the things that overwhelm me tend to be the things I need to unpack. It's the honest conversation I'm avoiding and the hard decision I need to make. They're the things that help me grow and learn to love others better. They're the scary decisions when there's a much easier option.
It took Chris and me a little while to find our wedding venue, because my main criteria were (1) to be in a garden and (2) not to feel like a city. It turns out, that's a tall order in Atlanta. But, we finally found a spot that's surrounded by flowers and has no skyline view or bright lights. I wanted our wedding to feel calm and intimate in the chaos of the city.
Lately I've learned that this is exactly what I need in the overwhelming times in my life. I'm called not to run from them, but to stay put. I'm being called to create my own sanctuary - my own quiet in the storm. I'm learning that there is growth in the chaos and beauty in pain. The things that break our hearts, create tension and make us want to give up and run the other direction, are so often in the places where we need to stay put.
I don't know what you're fighting for today, but if you need a reminder, take it from me. Keep going; carry on. Don't run from the real stuff. If you find yourself knee deep in tension, soak it up. Let it wash over you. It will not bend you or break you, but instead, shape you into someone stronger and more powerful than you could ever imagine.