On July 28, 2015 Stephanie and I officially started our lease. Three days later, we had loaded everything we owned (at least, everything that was not already in Nashville in our PODS unit) into our two cars, and began the 9+ hour drive to the capital of Tennessee.
Now, I’m sitting in our apartment, listening to my beautiful wife sing praise music to herself as we seek to trust God with this huge transition. This time last night (give or take half an hour) I was bawling like a child in a haunted house… for the second time that day; I have not cried such deeply profound and sorrowful tears since the death of my grandfather in high school. Even as sobs shook my body, I felt so foolish and weak. What was I thinking? Why did I ever leave my home?
For the past few months, I’ve been mentally preparing for this move. And the whole time, God has been lining up different elements for us, and smoothing the road before us. “I’m excited, and a little bit scared, but more excited than scared,” I kept telling people who asked. And I was honestly assessing my feelings.
Then we got here.
It is possible to be a shy extrovert. I know because I am one. I tend to dread situations where I am expected to reach out to meet someone new, and yet I thrive on interaction with others. Moving to a city where I know virtually no one turned terrifying. Suddenly, I had no close friends (besides Stephanie, of course) for hundreds of miles, and to make new friends would require stepping out of my comfort zone to seek them out.
And, through all this process, I had been terrified that if I truly showed my fear and sadness, it would only heighten Stephanie’s fears and loneliness and doubt about being Tennessee immigrants. She, as always, astounds me with her ability to love me and forgive me and understand me.
Now, having talked, cried, prayed, read the word, talked more, cried more, and prayed more together, I’m astounded by God’s goodness to me.
1 John 4:16-19 says:
“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.19 We love because he first loved us.”
Wrapped up in my fears of being alone, of being a bad husband, of leading my wife away from home, was ultimately a fear of punishment, and a lack of love. I was afraid that God would punish me for the choice I made by making us miserable in Nashville. I was afraid that Steph would punish me through resentment. I was not loving God, or Stephanie, or the city of Nashville with perfect love from God.
I am trying to find joy in the sadness; I’m trying to let God’s love fill me and perfect my love so as to cast out all fear. God reminded me tonight that even if I am so unfortunate as to never see my dear friends from Texas again in this life, I am so fortunate that I will see those who love Him in the next. In the same way we can rejoice through the tragedy of death when the deceased is a believer, I can rejoice in the new ways God will grow Stephanie and I through this hard, and at times very lonely, time.
So here is my current prayer: I am asking that God (who is able to do exceeding abundantly more than I can ask or think) would help us to see this city as what it is, a population of people who bear His image. Some are already my brothers and sisters in Christ, adopted into the family of God. Others are still in need of someone to tell them about Jesus that one more time where God opens their eyes to the truth of the gospel. Either way, they are loved by God dearly, and that makes them vastly more worthy of my love than I can understand.
And as I ask God to help my unbelief, He is perfecting my love for this city and her inhabitants. And that love is casting out my fear.
It’s a process that will take time, but it feels good to be done moving (and done shaking).