Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Friday's Weekly Rap-Up Rewind: Two Years in Houston - Lecrae "The Bride"

Friday's Weekly Rap-Up - July 21, 2014
(See original from July 19, 2013)
Lecrae - The Bride

Saying "I Do"

It is hard to believe, but this Monday marked two years of being in Houston, today marks two years of calling Sojourn Heights my local church (and the day that my friend Kyle Bryant took me on an extensive three-hour tour of Houston), and Wednesday marks two years of working for the City of Houston Planning and Development Department. It has been two years 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. 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.

Rose River Falls in Shenandoah National Park

A Skyline Drive sunset in Shenandoah National Park

This past year was a huge blessing. First, Emily and I were married in March. It's been a wonderful four months with my bride, and we are both growing in holiness, that's for sure. It was a great celebration with family and friends where we could display our love for each other, but most importantly the love the Christ has for his bride, the Church.

I've been able to experience a good amount of Texas this past two years. I've covered San Antonio a few times, Austin a few more, gazed at a Texas night sky in the middle of the country, made a few trips to New Orleans, swam in Galveston and Port Aransas, floated the river in New Braunfels, downed a few Lone Stars and Shiner Bocks, and have done even more shopping at HEB, no thanks to my wife.

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. 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.

Sunrise in Port Aransas

There's one thing that made it easy to avoid any "shock" in Houston. That would be the Church. Yes, the saints at Sojourn here in Houston are largely responsible for this, but the larger fellowship of other brothers and sisters in Christ keeps us rooted in our identities in Christ. I could have avoided the minimization of shock, but I believe that as we continue to grow in holiness, we gain an innate desire for biblical fellowship and teaching. For my transplant, a faithful comrade assisted in sharing their experiences in Houston. As I cast a wide networking net, the Lord eventually led me to Sojourn. I arrived on that Saturday night, and attended a Sojourn Sunday Gathering the next day. I haven't left yet.

Even though I have not left, there have been times these past two years 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.

There are still times 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.

Have I grown in holiness these past two years? Without a doubt. Has it been easy? Not a chance. It's not easy confronting others when you have sinned against them or feel they have hurt you. Admitting personal sin and developing deep personal relationships can be messy. It's uncomfortable getting to know people below the surface. It's difficult surrendering personal preferences for the service of another. I am continuing to learn this as I strive to live in an understanding way with my wife. It's certainly not always something that I do well, and need to keep asking the Holy Spirit to help me. All of this holds true for any relationship, but is especially true in dedicated relationships within the church. And, even though there is difficulty, there is reward. Ephesians 4: 11-16 is a promise of this.

Overall, it's been a great two years in Houston. Has it always been comfortable? Definitely not. But, the comfort of Christ has continued to be lavished upon me through The Bride of Christ, his Church.