Looking back at 23; looking ahead to 24.

It’s been a good year. A really, really good year. the more I look back on it, the more I wish I could high-five 23-year-old me and say, “way to go, man. Good year. I got the next leg.”

I made a list on my birthday last year of things I wanted to accomplish this year, and here’s what they were (And whether or not I completed it)

CONCRETE GOALS [measurable]
-Go back to Red River Gorge and hike (didn’t go)
-go on an out-of-state trip, stay at a hotel, and see some things (I went to Asheville, NC in May and I got my own hotel, drove the whole way there and back, walked around downtown, saw the coolest coffee shop/book shop/wine bar I’ve ever seen, ate at a hot dog stand…it was great.)
-Preach 6 more times (YES. I was so lucky to be a part of a series in 1 Timothy that my pastor and I preached together during the summer. It was amazing. So I got at least 6 other sermons under my belt.)
-Lead someone to Jesus (nope. didn’t. still working through this.)
-Purchase weights/start lifting (nope.)
-Pay mom $200 for books she bought me in school (nope…sorry, mom…)

ABSTRACT GOALS [not especially measurable]
-Stop spoiling body with junk food (not exactly. in some ways I’ve eaten better than ever, in some ways worse. So nope, I don’t feel like I achieved this.)
-Stop spoiling mind with lazy thinking (not really satisfied with my progress here. I always wish I did more reading and less “entertaining”)
-Be a neighbor, a vessel for community (in some ways, yes. But in a lot of ways, no. I definitely turn down a lot of opportunities, but at the same time, I’ve been fortunate to have some people to my house [more than ever before anyway] and slowly make a few new friends. So, I guess there’s progress here.)
-Pray for others (I’m satisfied with this. I’ve spent more time deliberately in prayer than ever before in my life, and it’s a habit I hope to maintain.)

A few highlights of being 23:
-had my first REALLY serious girlfriend
-also had the worst heartbreak I’ve ever had
-learned how to not get over pain, but to get through it
-moved to Lexington, Kentucky
-dealt with utility companies to get our house warm and operational
-joined an indoor soccer league
-changed banks
-was there for my little brother’s initiation ceremony at his 13th birthday
-had a really, really good conversation with a friend about evangelism
-made the hardest choice I’ve ever made: to leave my home church of 9 years and find a church community in Lexington
-Got my first tattoo!
-took a full-time job as purchasing assistant at A Cup of Common Wealth (brought in two types of smallwares for retail; have had to talk to a number of vendors, both reaching out to vendors as well as being reached out to; learned a lot about inventory, ordering, cash handling, other business operations)
-Moved in with two guys who were almost complete strangers and have learned the frustrating and sanctifying qualities of living with other people. They’re two of my best friends now.

Man, it’s been a really good year. It’s the most real, raw year I’ve ever had – I’ve hurt more than ever, but I’ve had deeper joy than ever. I’ve made some of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made, and some of the most sensuous. I’ve worked harder than ever and been lazier than ever. I’ve been more intimidated and more confident than ever.

If I could summarize this year as being any one thing, I’d say it was a wake-up year. I’ve just faced a lot of realities and parts of adulthood I’ve never had to before. I’m a little more prepared. I’ve got a little more perspective. I know I’ve messed up a lot, I know I’ve failed at a lot of things, but that’s okay, because there’s a lot of grace from God and a lot of room to grow.

With that in mind, let’s look at the next year.

Looking ahead to 24.
If 23 was a year of waking up, 24 is a year of cutting some fat (literally and figuratively!) With some lessons of the last year in mind, I want to look forward to the next year.

A quick aside – I do not believe that years in and of themselves have any inherent value or qualities. I think that time is an arbitrary divide that helps us as humans to quantify our lives and establish constructs and do things like this – reflect.

As I’ve prayed and considered what the Lord has for the next year, here are the themes that seem to keep coming up:

Leadership – I realized that I’m the oldest person in my house, and I sometimes act like the least mature. I realized that I’m the second-longest tenured person at my place of employment, and I rarely act like that. I realize that I’ve been following Jesus for 9 years, and I don’t act like that around other believers nor in my own personal disciplines. I struggle with self-confidence which is part natural insecurity, but I think it’s mostly a lack of confidence in Jesus and who He is. I hope that this year holds an increased confidence in who Jesus is and who I am in Him, so that I can move forward in a degree of leadership and maturity for other believers in Jesus.

Honesty – Here’s something I’ve learned in the aftermath of a failed relationship, in the midst of living with roommates who do things that get on my nerves, working with vendors to whom you sometimes just have to say no, and working for a boss who expects you to complete your goals on time and for whom you have to have a reason for them not being complete: honesty is truly the best policy. I appreciate that truth hurts, and I appreciate that sometimes I hate the way the truth makes me feel (ie. when I’m annoyed by something I shouldn’t be annoyed by; I’m insecure because of something that shouldn’t make me insecure) but it’s easiest in the long run.
When you don’t tell the truth up front, you just create these barriers between you and the other person. You start putting up a bunch of crap you’ll have to work through and explain later. That’s just annoying and unnecessary.
My goal is to get in more of a habit of truth-telling. Even if the truth is hard, because it’s a good characteristic to have. It may hurt at first, but it won’t hurt as bad later when I have less crap to work through.
Eliminating unhealthy habits – this is a bit of a carry-over from last year. I’m not pleased with my diet; I’m not pleased with my indiscipline with a budget; I’m not pleased with spontaneous spending; I’m not pleased with not having a planned schedule for my days. I think that these are things will improve my health – both physically as well as mentally, and ultimately (I believe) spiritually. I want to take steps to change these habits over the course of the next year.
Taking risks – I’ve noticed that something I did really wrong over the last year was to fear rejection. I feared failure. I only did the things I felt REALLY good about completing, and I only reached out to people for social functions when I was feeling really confident. Particularly, I’ve not taken the risks of being in community with people because I’m afraid that between busy schedules, I won’t meet anyone I can count on when I need them the most – and I have therefore not taken the risk of friendship (friendship requires vulnerability, and vulnerability is risk.) I need to overcome a fear of failure in the next year.
Reducing entertainment – you become what you consume. I like to think I’m a smart guy, and yet I irritate myself with how much cheap entertainment I consume and how little thinking I do relative to that. I sit around on social media, football manager, and watching the television. I wait for my roommate to come home so we can play FIFA and do other mindless thing. I’m totally okay with entertainment, just in much more moderation than I currently practice.
Thoroughness – this is a lesson my job has taught me. I have a lot of opportunities to not be, but just like the honesty thing – it’s ultimately easier to do it right then and there as opposed to putting things off for long periods at a time.
Leave work at work, and home at home – also a lesson from work (And this will, ideally, coincide with thoroughness.) I too often find myself (in boredom) checking my email at home and stressing about an email I got that reminds me of something I have to do at work. I want to be better about separating my work life from my personal life, so that outside of work, I breathe more deeply, and enjoy life more thoroughly. It will also help motivate me to be more thorough when at work, I believe.

A lot of these are more abstract – I haven’t put a ton of quantifiable goals on myself this year (although I think my brain works a little better with quantities.) But I think this is a year of maturing, which tends to not be numerical (although maybe I can make it so…)

Finally, I’d just like to thank all of the family and friends who’ve helped me through a lot and given me a lot of grace. Too many to name, but thanks to everyone. 23 was good.

24 will be better!

life and its uniquity.

I’ve come to the conclusion that life is pretty cool.

Think about this for a second…

Nobody in the world who has ever lived – nor anyone who will ever live – can have your experiences.

Nobody can hear a song and have the same exact emotions elicited for the same exact reasons.

Nobody can appreciate a movie for the exact same reasons you do.

Nobody can taste a dish – even if its the same dish on your plate – and taste the exact same thing.

Even the people you do your life with, the people you live with, the people you work with, the people you talk to, etc. can experience things in the same way you do, because by its very nature, life is unique. Everyone is shaped by different things and those different things shape our perceptions and our experiences, and I think that’s pretty freaking cool.

With that in mind, I’ll take a lot more joy in the fact that my car has to be opened from the inside; that I live in the house that I do; that I have the skill level at certain sports that I do; that I own the movies I do; that I attend the church I attend; that I had the childhood I had; that I have the preferences I have; that I get to go to work meetings sometimes at 7 AM and sometimes at 9:45 PM; that I work with the core group of people I do, etc etc.

Life is unique, and life is really, really cool.

maybe we’re starting to get it.

I was sick to my stomach the other day.

I wasn’t sick because I caught a virus, I was sickened by a memory – a memory of a guy I used to be. I was perusing a Christian bookstore that I used to frequent (I won’t use any names) and I was looking around and suddenly I was flooded with memories of myself as a young believer, when I would flock to my definition of safety: only Christian books on my shelves, only Christian music on my iTunes, only Christian t-shirts, no cuss words, have only Christian friends, don’t watch a movie if a lot of Christians told me not to. In fact, “do what you’re told” was probably a really good way of summing up how I used to try to live.

I was safe.

Sheltered.

Naïve…

As I was sickened by these memories, I was looking for a certain author’s book, only to find nothing under his name. Now, this particular author has been through some controversy of late, so it didn’t surprise me when Google showed me a story which confirmed my suspicions: this unnamed bookstore had pulled this unnamed author’s books from their shelves in the aftermath of the controversy.

Safe.

Good PR move. Way to cater to the masses.

I get so frustrated with this idea of safety. I get so frustrated with people disassociating themselves from someone who screwed up. I get tired of hearing people talk about how you need to avoid this movie or this band or this politician or this company because somewhere along the line, they have a view or an opinion that doesn’t lineup with a purely Christian worldview, or because they made a mistake ten years ago, or – hell – because they made a mistake two days ago! I get tired of hearing that you shouldn’t listen to band X because their lead singer was heard using a curse word, or seen smoking a cigarette.
I got really tired around the time when the film ‘Noah’ came out of hearing people telling me I shouldn’t see it, because it didn’t line up with the Bible. I don’t like that mentality. It discourages me from thinking for myself. It’s one thing if you tell me, “man, they really skewed the story, so keep that in mind when you see it.” It’s another to tell me not to see it because it “isn’t biblical.” Are we that weak-minded? Why would we avoid it, then? Why would we avoid what might be one of the biggest creative projects of the year because it doesn’t line up 100% with the Biblical account? Are we afraid that somehow they’re going to ruin the story, or to detract from the fact that the story of Noah is ultimately about Jesus?

Do we believe in a God so weak that we have to run from everything that is not under the banner of “Christianity?”

But I’m increasingly encouraged, and here’s why:

I read a book like unChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, which seeks to understand the perspectives of outsiders of Christianity.
I listen to a podcast like Bad Christian (Toby Morell, Joey Svendsen, and Matt Carter) in which they talk with Christians and non-Christians alike with respect, talking about hard issues and appreciating each other’s worldviews. They too try to gather as much information as they can about the way other people see Christianity all the while upholding the Bible as true and Jesus as sovereign.
I hear about a group of young people who meet in my community from various churches and life paths and careers whose ultimate goal is to encourage one another in the Lord and ultimately serve our city together. And, I’m encouraged that they’re willing to meet at a local brewery and have a couple of beers during the meeting.
I’m encouraged because there’s a guy I know who plays guitar at a church and every time we hang out, he’s smoking a cigarette.

Here’s why that encourages me: I think we’re finally starting to understand – at a generational level – that Christianity is offensive in that it goes. Offensive means two things, you see – in one sense, it means that it offends people and puts them off politically and morally. For example, people are offended that Christianity calls homosexuality a sin (and despite where the cultural tide, I will always believe that, because Christianity calls all types of sexual immorality sin [not just homosexuality.] But that’s a whole other issue for a whole other blog.)
But the other sense in which Christianity is offensive is that it isn’t a defensive religion. John 1:5 (which is talking about Jesus) says that the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can’t comprehend it. It doesn’t say that the light hides from the darkness, because the darkness might put out the light – no! The light is stronger than darkness. He who lives in believers (Jesus) is greater than he who is in the world (satan, and that’s 1 John 4:4.)

So, yeah – I don’t really care if Christians use cuss words, or have a beer or two, or they smoke a cigarette. I’m honestly so unconcerned with cleaning myself up now – it’s Jesus who cleans me up. I spent my whole childhood thinking that I had to clean myself up: stop cussing, don’t drink, don’t have sex or look at porn (that I still am on board with!) listen to uplifting music exclusively, etc.
But my biggest problem with moralistic, legalistic teaching is that we emphasize cleaning up our little bubble to show ourselves off, and in the process we first fail to dwell on the majesty of Jesus as our savior instead of ourselves, and we fail to understand Jesus’ ultimate mission for us: to go!

I look back on my childhood – my youth in Christ – and I realize that I never had a mind for justice. I wasn’t raised to be thinking about how the Gospel can go forth to other people and transform them, but just how I can clean up my own act. And that’s such a limited scope.

Think about it like this: which of the following scenarios do you think reaches the heart of God?

-A young man works in another country. He helps build orphanages and works at local farms to produce food so that the local orphans can have shelter and food. However, in the midst of his work, he cusses when he accidentally hits his finger with a hammer, and he has a lit cigarette in his mouth. At the end of the day, he has a couple of beers while he unwinds.

-A young man works at an office. He, unlike his co-workers, never says a cuss word, and never steps outside to smoke. He keeps to himself and rejects the invitation of his co-workers to have a couple of drinks at the bar at the end of the work day. He goes home, cooks dinner, says his prayers, and goes to bed.

I’m convinced it’s the former scenario. I’m just so convinced that Jesus is a lot more concerned with justice being done in the world (and it may not look like moving to another country, and it’s not exclusively work with orphans, etc. don’t take me too literally.) I’m convinced He’d rather have His church do life together – ensuring that everyone is growing and learning in community with one another than for us to avoid each other on the grounds of a differing political view.

And, I think, my generation and I are starting to understand that. The reason I rejoice when a Christian drinks a beer is not because beer is good (oh, it is…) but because that means that that’s one less worry – one less joule of energy we put into maintaining an image, as if we were the reason we’re a Christian. The reason I rejoice when a Christian listens to the music of an atheist is because one, they are supporting the work and the art of an artist, and two, they’re not so damn insecure that they can’t appreciate a work of art.

I think that as a generation, we’re getting our eyes off of ourselves and more onto a savior who is greater than we are, and as we stop worrying about behavior management, we’re more and more free to do what Jesus really asks us to do – preach the gospel and do justice.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”

dear son: choose.

I grew up in a church culture (or maybe less a church culture and more of a Christian literature culture) that made God sound like He had one specific path planned for us. The impression I got was that every decision I made had to be bathed in prayer, and I had to be 100% sure that I was hearing God on whatever choice I made, or else I would screw up the path He’d set up for me. If I didn’t choose right, then either God would abandon me, or else He’d let whatever choice I made suffer and eventually, like the prodigal son, I’d come crawling back to Him, saying “God, I was wrong – forgive me!”

I was tempted to say that when you’re young, you’re faced with a lot of choices, but realistically, all of life is full of choices. But when you’re young, you’re thinking about stuff like your first job, where you’ll go to college, where you’ll go to church, what bank you’ll set up an account with, and (of course) who (if anyone) you date.

Pray, pray, pray. Make the right choice.

What if there is no “right choice?”

This could be specific to me (but that’s self-flattery, because it’s not specific to me) but I’ve noticed that in life, a lot of my choices haven’t been terribly arduous to make, and they’ve realistically consisted of taking the best available. For example, when I first attended my home church of 9 years, it was because I’d been there when I was nine years old for a few times, and I didn’t know where else to go. When I went to college, I chose Eastern Kentucky University because it was close to home, relatively inexpensive, and easy to get into. When I chose my major, it wasn’t because I had some big ambition to go into the field of psychology, but because I thought it was interesting and I found it an enjoyable thing to study.

I was offered a job at a local coffee shop the summer before my senior year of college, and I had no special, deep, profound reason to choose to work there, nor did I have some horrendous reason to leave the job I was already at. I just chose.

When I was offered a job in Lexington, the same thing happened. It just sounded like a cool thing to do, so I chose.

I guess my life is a lot less ambitious (which I’m perfectly okay with) but I never found myself stressing about which major university to apply to, or which big-time job to apply for, or where I should live. A lot of things have just made sense.

You could outline every major decision I’ve made in my life, and I doubt that for more than one or two of them, you’d get a spiritual reasoning for it.

I’ve been thinking about this idea a whole lot lately, and I think it goes for people who are simplistic as well as for people who are really ambitious: just make a choice.

You don’t have to wait for fire from heaven to tell you that you need to move thirty miles north. You don’t have to hear a still, small voice telling you which college to choose. And I’m not saying that prayer doesn’t help you – I definitely think that, just like you’d talk to your dad about making decisions, you should talk to God. But also like your dad, I think that God will let you choose.

Actually, I know He’ll let you choose.

Why?

Because God is not so weak that His plan is contingent upon us making the right choices. Heck, if it were, then God would be a fool for creating a plan based on faulty humans making perfectly informed and calculated decisions. Realistically, God can use whatever choice you decide to make for His glory. If you decide to take a job at a corporate office where you’ll wear a suit and do paperwork all day every day, He’ll use you. If you choose to work at a coffee shop where you wear shorts and a bandana, He’ll use you. If you go to a public college, He’ll use you. If you go to a private college, He’ll use you. If you go to a Christian university or a secular one, He’ll use you.
And He’ll grow you, and He’ll change you. And He’ll put you in community with people, and He’ll surround you with people who encourage you and people who challenge you (for the sake of your growth as well as theirs!)

That’s the beauty of life – no matter what choice you make, God is sovereign.

take that for whatever it’s worth.

Dear Pastor Mark…[a brief discourse on expendability in conjunction with change]

quick note to start: I’ve never been to Mars Hill, I’ve only been a ‘member’ through podcasts. So, take that for what it’s worth.

Dear Pastor Mark,
I was gutted when I heard the news that you’d resigned from Mars Hill. I guess the top reason is that you’ve been so influential in my formation over the last few years. To put that in perspective, let me tell you just a little bit about myself…

I’m 23 now, but I was 15 when I became a Christian. I was an ambitious young man – I went back and forth between feeling the absolute delight of God’s love and the absolute terror that I’d done something to make Him angry with me. But nonetheless, I kept a zeal and a fervor for Jesus and the Gospel, and I stuck with church through high school, college, and beyond.
Over time, I think [and I say this humbly] my consistency began to speak of my character – that I was someone who was committed to my church and to the cause of the Gospel, so I was slowly entrusted with more things. I was able to speak in youth group, I joined the worship team, I participated in small groups, and eventually it got to the point at which I was able to lead worship and lead my own small group. I was doing more and more in ministry (though, it still feels pretty small.)
About 5 years ago, we had a group come to our church to hold a little workshop about church planting, and initially, I was really keen. I kept the idea in the back of my mind – after all, I was a young man, on fire for Jesus, getting experience in ministry…it just made sense for me to be interested in a church plant.
So I mentioned it to my pastor, and we kept it in mind for a few years.
At this point almost everything I did was to serve a potential church plant, so it was at this point that I started to learn to preach and prepared myself with various books and other supplies to get myself thinking about church planting.
I got as far as moving and getting a job in the city we had considered for church planting, and then all of a sudden the idea lost momentum. And I say idea because I think it was a good idea, but not necessarily a call of God.
All of a sudden I found myself in a city that was far away from my home church, somewhat alone, and now I’ve made a decision that I’m not going to try to plant a church, and in fact, I’m going to find a home church in this new city.
I could go into further detail about everything, but basically, the gist is this: I’m living out a story about failed ambitions, and about not hearing God as clearly as I’d hoped to.

I’m leaving a church where I have been entrusted with a lot of responsibility and a degree of authority – I mean, my pastor trusted me with the pulpit in his absence.

Honestly, I feel pretty expendable right now. I don’t know if you’re feeling that way, but it feels to me like a pretty inseparable feeling with leaving a church you’ve been in authority in.

That said (and don’t get me wrong, I’m a realist, this may never reach you, and that’s okay with me – it still stands,) you’ve taught me a lot: about Jesus; about the Bible, about church, about people, and about life, and I want to express my appreciation for that.

I’m a big believer that God uses people in powerful ways, and anything that people do to screw up has zero bearing on the impact they’ve had on other people’s lives. For example, anyone and everyone who got saved at one of Jimmy Swaggart’s church services, I believe, experienced a legitimate, long-lasting salvation. I think that when he preached, it was powerful. And then he slept with a prostitute, but that didn’t undo all of his previous ministry work.
I wasn’t a part of your church, so I don’t know anything about what this “spiritual abuse” was, but I know you taught me some valuable, long-lasting lessons.

The Bible is about Jesus.
I was fortunate to learn this in my church, too – but I loved hearing you preach because everything came back to Jesus and who we are in Him. I loved hearing you preach through books of the Bible because those can be the trickiest sermons – you don’t get to pick and choose your topic, but you have to just plunge into a book and plow ahead, even when it’s dry, tedious and controversial. I held onto that when I worked through 1 Timothy with my pastor and spiritual father, and had to figure out how to preach about men and women in the church, elders and deacons, and godly aspirations. It’s about Jesus. Somehow everything you read in the Bible is about Jesus. Thank you for that.

People are messed up, but Jesus is great.
I think what I gleaned perhaps more than anything in your sermons was the way that people will respond to scripture – that not everyone swallows and accepts it the way I wish they would, and people have some serious, deep-seated issues that affect how they read and hear scripture. It’s an important tool of the trade to possess. But beyond that, the Christocentric Bible is a powerful thing.

Loving Jesus is the most important part of ministry, but deeper still, life.
I loved the way you said the name of Jesus in your sermons – somehow, you encapsulated (by the grace of God) the friendship of Jesus but also His greatness. I saw how important and helpful it is to simply be a friend of Jesus. Through every controversy and issue at Mars Hill, that shone through (at least perceptibly to me.) You love Jesus. You need Him. That was/is clear to me. And now in a season of being unsure whether or not I’ll be in ministry again, I’m holding on to the fact that loving Jesus is not just for leaders and ministers, but for those of us who hold down full-time, layman’s jobs. It’s a good life, even if it’s hard at times.

God is sovereign, and God uses His church regardless.
Your dependency on Jesus and belief in His sovereignty is evident through every book, every sermon, every small group resource, etc. And it’s evident even now, as God continues to use you, in the aftermath of recent events, to encourage people. Everything you said circled back to Him – Your marriage thrived by His grace; new churches were planted by His grace; the church grew by His grace; you preaching was a gift from Him to you; your family was a gift, etc. etc. And everything God did in the church was something God did in the church. I have no doubt in my mind that the work that was started at Mars Hill will continue, even if it’s done under a different name, and without you at the helm. Your ministry still bears fruit by His grace. The gates of hell can’t and won’t prevail against His church, and you may have made mistakes, but that’s because you’re human, and that doesn’t change the fact that Jesus loves His church and He’s going to work mightily in it.

So be encouraged – you’re expendable, and I’m expendable. And it’s a good place to be: realizing that God’s mighty work in the church is dependent neither upon you nor me, but when we’re willing to be His vessels, He’ll use us in a mighty way. He still uses you, and I’m forever grateful for your ministry.

Love,
Jeff

loneliness and hopefully a little hope…

Sometimes when you blog, you have to bare your intentions, so here goes.

I’m not writing this because I want pity.
I’m not writing this because I want people to befriend me because they feel bad.
I’m not writing this because I think it’s the end of the world.
I’m not writing this because I have an idea of how to change it.
I’m not writing this because I have any profound wisdom to share with you.

I’m just going to bare some feelings for you, and I’m going to be brutally honest. To be fair, there is no one person who’s at fault – in fact, my personality mandates that I take responsibility for this, so I do to a certain extent.

I’m really lonely.
Really, really lonely.

I’ve been telling half-truths about my life since I moved to Lexington, but here’s the full on truth: I’m lonely.

There are good parts to life here: there’s always something to do; I’m close to work (and I enjoy my job;) there are killer places to eat, and I live with one of my best friends, but the hardest part (and boy is it hard) is that I’m lonely.

I thought – genuinely – that moving to Lexington would fix my problem of isolation. When I signed the lease on our house, I was dating a beautiful, wonderful girl, so I thought that even if I have a slow, rocky start with making new friends, then I at least had her to hang out with.

A week into my being here, she broke up with me.

Back to square one.

I thought that having a roommate might fix the problem of hanging out with people, but the only roommate I had over the summer was gone most of the time, leaving me at home by myself.

Here’s my biggest problem: I don’t have a go-to person to spend time with. Everyone’s on their own schedule. Most people I know are balancing work, school, church, etc. and it’s insanely difficult to find time to get together. On a really rare occasion, I’ll find a pocket of time to meet with a friend, and we’ll talk for a good couple of hours before one of us has an obligation. For a little while, I feel human. I feel like my deepest human need – community – is met. But then I try to follow up and find another time to sit and talk, to share a meal, or go see a movie, and it becomes a one-off. I try to communicate and let people know when I’m free but then the conversation thread on my phone haunts me because it seems like no matter what, I have the last word. For some reason, nobody gets back when I reach out.

The hardest part about that? Not taking it personally. It’s so easy to. And with a speculative mind like my own, it’s likely to happen.
“Are they really that busy? I see them on their phone all the time. Surely they can’t forget to text me back when they see their phone ad nauseum. For that matter, why doesn’t anyone reach out to me? Why doesn’t anyone try to initiate a get-together with me? Why am I the one trying so hard? Why do I keep putting myself out there? It’s easier to stop trying.”

And then I end up buying into lies about my worth and my value. I start believing nobody likes me. I start believing that people only act like they like me when I’m at work because I’m serving them a good coffee. Hell, I’ve started to forget what it’s like to be human – to be a friend – outside of a coffee shop setting. And it’s exhausting, because I’m an extrovert. I get my energy from people – even if I’m tired and I don’t do or say much, having people around helps me exponentially. I blog because I need to process, but even this doesn’t do it like someone sitting across from me holding their coffee.

The other day, this was bugging me more than ever. I sat down and started to journal all of this out, and I heard the Lord telling me I needed to pick up my guitar and sing. So I began singing this chorus:

I need You, oh I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need you.

And I’ve not often sensed the prompting of the Holy Spirit to “sing a new song” (when, spontaneously, you start singing whatever pops into your head about God) but I did then and there, and I sang, “I need Your comfort, I need Your friendship. I need You ’cause I’m weak, and I know You’re so strong.”

I just sang that, over and over and over and over and over and over and over

because it’s true.

Somehow God designed us like this: our deepest need is Him. So that, I believe, is what God was making real sure I knew – before I need friends, or food, or shelter, or clothing – I need Him. But then God also designs us to need each other. Not to the same degree, but for the same reason – the church is how God manifests Himself to the cosmos, which implies that the church is also how God manifests Himself to each other. We need each other because God lives in “each other.” (and by each other, I mean Christians. Don’t want to be a heretic.)

God, I believe, will comfort the lonely in the midst of their loneliness. That’s what I think He did for me the other day. But I think that God also will ultimately comfort the lonely through community, and that’s a need I’m hungry for right now.

It’s the hard part of living in Lexington – the culture is different, because it’s a faster paced city, and everyone has all their own stuff going on. I’m hoping to (And hoping to find others who) prioritize being with people. Having people over. Singing together. Playing games together. Talking. Worshipping. Studying the bible.

I want this more than anything right now.