Wednesday, September 16, 2015

when you are born and raised {again}

I was born in Blacksburg, Virginia.  I have only been back to visit once.  I carry a few snapshots in my mind of the place that held my earliest days.

I was raised in Clemson, South Carolina.  It's where nearly all of my childhood memories reside.   After years of living in North Carolina we moved back there.  My kids are now growing up in the very place I grew up.  It's a precious thing.

But I've discovered we are not just born and raised in one place and by one person.
I was born and raised by my parents in these South Carolina foothills but I was also born and raised at New Charlotte Church.  There are many emotions associated with such people and places.

Have you every carried sadness and joy so closely that you feared a chemical reaction may just shatter you from the inside out?

It happened to me over the weekend.

I had the date circled on my calendar for months.
The church we helped to launch was celebrating her 5th anniversary.  I would be there.

From the moment I stepped out of my car in the parking lot it began -
the hugging
the laughing
the crying
the roller coaster of emotions as I answered questions about our new life.
How was Joey's job?
Were the kids adjusting well?
Had we found a new church?
Did we like it?
I asked questions too, trying to catch up on the lives that were moving right along in my absence.

We miss you, they said, and I knew they meant it.
I miss you too, I said, and I meant it too.
The tears I held tight in the corners of my eye were the evidence I hid.

I slipped into a seat reserved for me on the front row.
It felt like home and a foreign land all at once.
I recognized the faces on stage and many of the hundreds lined up in rows behind me.  I remembered when that room was just a warehouse full of junk.  There were only a handful of us who were there in the very beginning, wading through the boxes and random pieces of furniture, scouting out a position for a stage and a sound booth, dreaming about the future.

I watched a church being born.
It's something I will never forget, but it's my own rebirth that I've been considering lately.

The person God has created me to be,
the quiet calling that seemed so distant I couldn't even be sure it was being spoken for me,
it was born at 11011 Monroe Road.

I was feed a healthy diet of grace and truth.
I was nurtured by people who loved me and gave generously and sacrificially for my well-being.
I was offered a safe place to try new things - to succeed and to fail.
I took my first wobbly steps onto that stage I watched being built.
I spoke my first words through a microphone into a giant sea of their attentive and encouraging faces.
I learned to ride on wings of faith into places that seemed big and scary to my small and unexperienced self.  They held onto me until I got my balance.

Those people - my pastors, my friends, my co-workers, the children, their parents, the ones I served and served alongside - they raised me.
They saw things in me that I didn't see in myself.  They believed in me before I believed in myself.

It's hard to leave the place you were born and the people who raised you.
It's like someone cut the umbilical cord and I'm still not sure if I can survive on my own.  Can I keep walking and talking and living out my calling apart from there - apart from them?

It has taken tremendous faith to carry my calling outside of the walls of New Charlotte Church.  It has been painful.  I have cried like a child torn apart from her mother - arms stretched back towards her, kicking and screaming as the space between us grows greater.

I will always be connected to the people and the ministry of that church - they are my family.  But this weekend I had to face the reality that I am grown up enough now to leave home.   Despite how uncertain I am about the future, I trust that they have raised me well and their work is done.  It's time that I packed up all that they have given and carry it somewhere new.

To get where I'm going I can't keep one foot in their door.  If I did I wouldn't be able to reach as far as I'm headed.  I will need myself fully in that new place and new season.
They have let me go.
They have released me.
They have done the hard work of raising me up and nurturing my soul and now they hug me tenderly and wave goodbye.  They watch me turn my back and walk away and they bless me in the moving on.

I can not write these words without sobbing because I have never known a community like this community that I have been called to leave behind.  Have you ever had to leave something behind?  Have you ever known so clearly that you were being called to something else but it hurt so badly to take the steps necessary to get you there?  With every inch of distance that you put between yourself and what you left behind you felt the sadness more deeply?

Last weekend was a celebration.

But my great joy kept company with deep sadness and I'm having trouble reconciling the two.  I do not write to you today as a person who has achieved closure or as a person who has learned how to move on well.  I write to you as a person who is right in the middle of the tension of letting go and moving forward.

I had to be careful in many of my conversations over the weekend.  There were words that couldn't be spoken because they would have poked holes right into the dam that was holding back the tidal wave of tears sitting heavy in my heart.  But I think they know - I hope they do - that I carry our family portrait with me wherever I go.
Their faces,
their voices,
their lessons,
their love,
are a part of me.

If you're stepping into a new season, if you're leaving home...
  be brave enough, my friend, to carry the joy alongside the sadness.
Though it may feel like dying inside, there is new life coming from that fertile ground.