One year ago today I got onto a plane with my wife and my boys and left the most significant home we had ever had. Both of our cars were sold. A bunch of our stuff had new homes. A small trailer full of essentials was being driven from Seattle to Atlanta and all that we had in our possession was a few carry-on bags and some deep sorrow. Seattle had come…
Six years. And like a flash it was over. I remember sitting on the plane looking out of the window remembering the feeling of arriving in Seattle. I remembered the first time I drove through the city. The first time I stepped into MC4. The first incredibly awkward night at a youth Christmas party having no clue what to do. Our first house. Our first students and the unshakeable bond it created. Struggle. Success. Failure. Heartache. Students falling in love with Jesus. Students walking away from Jesus. Camp. Jacob being born. Youth ministry giving birth to internships and college students. Walks and walks and walks and walks around the church. Deep friendships. A second baby boy. And this eventual unsettled heart I could no longer ignore. It that moment I saw six years sewn together and jumbled up into one emotional mass.
All of the conversations.
All of the dreaming.
All of the fires.
All of the people.
All of the victory.
All of the…non-victory.
The season was over, and a new one was about to begin. And as much as my mind and spirit had said yes to Atlanta, my heart was stuck in the Seattle rain. It was stuck in the six most important years of my life, and most significantly stuck to a group of people I didn’t know how to leave. It was stuck with Michael Glenn on the curb outside our house in Everett. It was stuck with Audrey Shed at a Wal-Mart in Calgary. It was stuck with Heidi Jensen picking blueberries next the church. It was stuck with Drew Montoya killing scorpions in Cambodia.
I was stuck.
With so many people. And so many moments. More than I could ever possibly type. And I just kept thinking, “What have you done? What have you left? Have you just made the biggest mistake of your life?” Over the last year I have faced those questions every morning and lived my life under their shadow. Did we actually hear from God? Did he actually want to give us Atlanta? Could we actually plant a church? Was all of this a foolish attempt at faith or was Jesus our King really leading us? Was I sitting in a plane as my son cried for his lost home because I didn’t know how to be settled or because Jesus was with us?
A year ago I didn’t know the answer to that question. One year later, all I know is that Jesus has superseded the questions.
He’s become bigger than the looming doubt. He’s stronger than heartache. He is the creator of the world and therefore he is qualified to be the creator of home. He’s muddled the confusion and just brought clarity to one central thing: Wherever he is, is exactly where I want to be. And all I know is that right now I’m sitting on my porch on a quiet street in northwest Atlanta and the God of resurrection is sitting next to me. Whether I followed him here or he followed me here…he’s here. And that’s what matters.
I’ve learned so many things. One year of church planting should definitely qualify for some kind of spiritual masters degree. This has been a year of lesson after lesson, discovery after discovery. But there is one lesson that stands apart from all of the rest.
Jesus can do amazing things when you just say yes.
I mean he does the wildest, most incredible things when you have nothing but a yes. The God of fishes and loaves is still alive. The God who looked into the eyes of simple men and said “You will do even greater things” still believes in what he said. I serve the Jesus who is the God of immeasurably more. The God who can take all things and turn them for good. The God who wipes tears and redeems stories. The God of resurrection who is doubled over with grace takes what I have…and he makes it more than I could have ever thought was possible. A year ago I came to Atlanta with a heart full of dreams, and a year later I have much much more.
One year later, there is a church in Atlanta that didn’t exist six months ago.
One year later, dozens of people who had walked away from Jesus have started to walk back.
One year later, displaced men and women have realized they were created to lead God’s people.
One year later, God stories are filling up my house. Redemption is alive and well.
One year later, we are outgrowing our garage and taking steps into our first church.
One year later Atlanta has become my home. And it’s the most bittersweet truth in my life. Because I confess part of my heart is still stuck. And in some ways I think it will always be. And you know what? I’m happy it’s stuck. It’s as if Jesus is giving me the gift I really always wanted, which was that no matter where I go and what I do…Seattle will be sacred. Those people. Those moments. They will always matter. One day a long long time from now…part of my heart will still be stuck with Kat at a graduation party. And Megan and Sierra and MySpace. And all of the moments that really mattered. Because Jesus was there. And when he touches something, distance and time don’t really have much of a say. Which also means everything that is happening here will matter as well. Life with Jesus is not a random string of events, but a continuum of heaven colliding into our lives that makes everyday things have eternal qualities.
Seattle mattered. And it’s my proof that Atlanta will matter just as much.
The God who is leading the way for me in Atlanta is the God who is holding firm in Seattle. For then. For now. And for all time. Jesus is who he says he is. And just a little bit of faith has a way of echoing into eternity.
May you know today Jesus is alive. May you know that you were created for a story beyond your wildest dreams. May you know that in gain and loss the God of all things stands with you. And may you know that whatever bits of faith you come to Jesus with will be made into something beautiful. Something wildly beautiful. All you have to do is say yes.