It is hard to believe, but this Sunday (July 21st) will mark a year of attendance at Sojourn, a year of working for the City of Houston Planning and Development Department, and a year of living in Houston. It has been a year since I packed up my belongings and left the quaint (and amazingly beautiful and friendly) city of Harrisonburg, Virginia, to make the trek to the big, bustling city of Houston, stopping in both Chattanooga and Baton Rouge. It was difficult leaving, not because of what lie ahead, but because of the relationships that I was leaving behind, and the fact that Harrisonburg and Rockingham County were so darn blessed with natural beauty and friendly people.
I've been able to experience a good amount of Texas this past year. I have trekked to San Antonio to see the Alamo, visited Austin, gazed at a Texas night sky in the middle of the country, swam in Galveston, floated the river in New Braunfels, downed a few Lone Stars, and done a decent amount of shopping at HEB. I suppose I am finally a Texan now, having recently put Texas plates on my car to match my Texas drivers license.
Moving to a new place is not always easy, even if you've done it a few times. Whether it is within a region or across the county, having roots displaced can be traumatic personally and spiritually, as you lose the nourishment of friends, family, fellowship and familiarity. Plants, when transplanted, often go through a period of shock before regaining their regular growing pattern. (I can thank this article, and my green-thumbed parents for teaching me this). But, there are precautions that gardeners can take in order to mitigate and minimize any shock the plants receive upon transplant, in order to ensure that the plants will continue to live healthy, fruit-bearing lives. As Christians, many of these precautions are also applicable to our lives within the Church.
Even though I have not left, there have been times where I have groaned and complained. The faithful teaching of the men that led the churches I have previously attended, and the genuine fellowship of those within those congregations, has led to a less-than-lofty expectation for my church experience, recognizing that, starting with myself, people have sinful and selfish tendencies, and that there is not a Utopian church experience. At least not yet. That will happen when Christ returns.
I've entered into a time where my personal and congregational preferences are heavily challenged. I like to have a schedule, and keep it. I'd prefer to have time to regularly exercise or explore Houston. I'd prefer to cook at home instead of eating out. I'd prefer to sing more classic hymns at Sojourn's gatherings. The list could continue. But, for the sake of continuing to be able to love and serve those in our presence, we look past our preferences.
It is apt that much of this past week has been a reflection of what life is like within the Church. My friend, and fellow Sojourner Drew Knowles wrote a necessary and encouraging reflection on relationships within the church entitled "Living With The Weeds" and church planting resident Marshall Dallas spoke on Sunday on Ephesians 4: 1-16, encouraging us that as Christians, and as a local church, we are unified spiritually, even though we continue to grow in unity in other areas, and have been given different gifts in which to serve our neighbors and church, but are all still dependent on the reconciling work of Christ.
Ephesians 4: 11-16 is a promise of this.
Overall, it's been a pretty good year in Houston. Has it always been comfortable? Definitely not. But, the comfort of Christ has continued to be lavished upon me through the Church, The Bride of Christ.
(I'm looking to explore the more natural side of Texas in the near-future, so we'll see how that goes in this second year!)