Welcome to part one of a blog series on the lessons I’ve learned while living in Nashville…Enjoy!
Take Note. Take Action.
As a newcomer to Music City, I learned the importance of seeing the world around me, taking in all of the surroundings, noticing every face, picking up on every vibe, and so much more. It’s so easy to get lost in the crowd, especially in a place where so many people are trying to make something of themselves. In fact, to a certain degree, everyone is subconsciously screaming, “Notice me!”
Deep down, we all longed to be noticed. Don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about. Even deeper, we long to be accepted, admired, and loved. But what happens when no one notices, accepts or admires you? How do you respond? During the first few months of my time in this foreign land called Nashville, I experienced what it was like to go unnoticed. (Mom, Nana and Papa, if you’re reading this, don’t worry, you love and accept me very well). Here’s my journey and what I learned along the way.
Now, it would be easy for me to be angry, bitter, frustrated, insert other negative emotions here. And if I’m honest, there were moments that I let those feelings creep in. However, that is of no help to anyone, especially someone like me who hides every emotion in a vault inside my soul. No one ever told me how hard it would be or how much effort is required to develop genuine, fulfilling relationships. I was longing for community, a place to belong. Ya know…like the line from the Cheers theme song…”Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name…”
During this season, I looked forward to Sundays more than ever before. Why? Because every Sunday was a chance to meet with my Creator and Sustainer, and find a Christ-centered community. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved going to church my entire life (I mean, come on, I’ve devoted my whole life to ministry), but it’s something totally different when you’re desperate to meet with a group of people who love Jesus and love you as a result.
In my previous churches, I did not have to work very hard for people to notice me. I was always serving and surrounded by my tight knit group of friends who loved and supported me. I didn’t know what it was like to be an outsider looking in, longing for a place to connect. I didn’t take notice of the people who were in the exact place that I, all of a sudden, found myself in. Who knows how many people I saw, but never really looked into their eyes. How many people did I introduce myself to, but never took the time to find out who they were and what they were doing with their life? Knowing what it’s like to be new to a community of believers, I will never take what I learned and experienced for granted.
Before I found a home church here in Nashville, every Sunday had the potential of absolute greatness or absolute hopelessness. Why? Because so much was riding on finding the right church. I had never put so much pressure on this before. Some of you are probably thinking, “Didn’t you move to Orlando for college? Didn’t you work FUGE Camps with a bunch of strangers?” Yes, those things are true. But, there is a distinct difference in a group of people being thrown together in one place (College and camp), and one person taking the leap of faith into a brand new city.
In college and with camp staffs, everyone has one thing in common: they have all been plucked from their former communities and are now in need of new friendships. So, it is natural and slightly easier to develop relationships because everyone is actively seeking them. In contrast, moving to a new city in which most people already have their lives established, brings difficulty in forming new relationships. The people who are in need of friendship are a little harder to find. You follow my logic?
So, every time I walked into a new church or a small group, I was one of the few people (or possibly the only one) who did not yet belong. One of two things would happen: I would make really awkward small talk (we’ve all been there) and no connection was made, no contact info was exchanged; OR no one would speak to me or make an effort to get to know me. People might smile at me or say hello, but nothing further. I could walk in and out of the building, completely unnoticed. P.S. The “greeting breaks” in the middle of a worship service are the worst haha….I would smile at everyone and pretend like I was a life-long member, but really, I was clenching my jaw anxiously waiting for that segment to end.
Now, you could be reading this and thinking, man, this is nothing but a bunch of whining and complaining. But, please hear me, that is not the goal of this post. I wanted to share this because of the new perspective I gained. I did finally find a home church, a place to belong, a body of believers where I am serving, growing, and experiencing the love of Jesus like never before.
And do you know how I found this church? A co-worker invited me, and because she did, a part of me felt like I already belonged, even before I walked in the door. Why did I decide to stay at this church? Because they are actively involved in the community around them, never ceasing to be the hands and feet of Jesus. They understand the need of all people to be noticed, accepted, admired, and loved. They seek to meet that need through the love and hope that is found in Jesus Christ alone.
Ok, if you’ve read all the way up to this point (or skimmed…I know, I get it), I want you to leave this post with one thing:
Take Note. Take Action.
If you are a member of the body of Christ, then you have a hope and a peace and a love that exceeds far above anything in this universe. You have the potential to bring light to the darkest night. And you know what, you don’t have to look very hard or go very far to find people who are experiencing the darkest night. They might be in your workplace, your school, your church (what?!), or your neighborhood. Step out of your own agenda, look up from your phone and take note of the people around you. Look into their eyes and truly see what is going on. Shine the light of Christ into the darkness of their current season of life. Light brings hope, and we all need hope. Action does not always require a huge sum of money or time. Sometimes, the smallest things bring so much joy….why do you think rubber balls were invented? They are so small, yet they can bring a child so much joy and laughter (silly example, I know).
We need to take it a step further….into the church. The moment you enter the doors of your church building, or better yet, the moment your feet hit the parking lot, be on the lookout for newcomers. Not like you’re on the prowl haha, but be mindful of the people around you. Listen to the Holy Spirit as he prompts you to minister to those around you. You never know what they’ve experienced in their lives or how long they’ve been searching for a place to belong. You might be the person that God will use to help them see that they are accepted, admired, and loved. Don’t let those new faces slip away unnoticed. They are sons and daughters of the King, just like you.
I leave you with Scripture, because the words of Jesus are far better than anything I could ever dream of saying. I simply aim to be an instrument in His Hands.
“10 and have put on the new self. You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator. 11 In Christ there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all. 12 Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, 13 accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. 14 Above all, put on love—the perfect bond of unity. 15 And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful. 16 Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”