One year ago, Atlanta became the city name I saw written next to my address. It became the place I woke up in every morning and the rumbling I heard every night as I laid in bed to go to sleep.
It is hard to believe how much has changed inside of me over this last year. The girl who walked into this Atlanta apartment one year ago had layers of hurt and confusion built up inside. She was filled with rage and revenge and was not quite prepared for the year ahead.
This last year living in Atlanta has been a time that God divinely purposed for me to face the neediness I had developed towards people to fulfill me. I say had, but truly it’s still something I struggle through and am learning to bring before God.
The first few months became a series of realizing that most of the dreams I had safely guarded and treasured were all crumbling before me. Some of them crumbled because they were faulty and out of my control. But others crumbled because my heart was wrapped in bitterness and deceit and I really didn’t know how to keep hoping for good things.
When I first moved here, I had just stopped talking to my ex-boyfriend regularly and was starting a new graduate program. My church had been thinking about starting a congregation in the city, and it turned out to be just two miles down on the very same street that I was living on.
Church planting had been a dream of mine for so long. I had dreamed about investing my hours into bringing the many blessings of life in Christ to a community of people that hadn’t tapped into it yet. Despite what my dreams had been in the past, the emotional state that I was in when I moved caused me to despise the fact that the church plant was happening so close to me. I was a wreck emotionally; I was so busy with school; I just didn’t feel like there was anything I could give to anybody. It didn’t seem possible to back out without admitting to everybody that I was just a confused twenty-one year old who didn’t know how to live life, so I joined and began serving on the worship team.
It was the very first Sunday that our new church was going to hold a service, and I woke up, still drunk from the night before, in an unfamiliar room with my clothes covered in vomit and urine. Sobering up in time to drive home, get ready, and make it to church didn’t seem likely, so I called out of that first Sunday.
With two dreams down, I poured myself into school as the last thing I had going for me. I had just enough time for work, homework and sleep and not much else. It turns out that wasn’t really going for me either, and dream number three died.
Quitting graduate school put a halt on constant business and abruptly ushered me into free time. Way too much free time for someone who hadn’t had any in a few months. It felt like a big seductive billboard luring me in to remind me that I am alone. I started realizing how busy everyone else had become. Coming home most days to a dimly lit apartment that didn’t have my family or a husband waiting to exchange stories about the day kinda sucked. If I’m honest, it still kinda sucks.
Post-college life has been a serious adjustment. All those people who had once been readily available to hang out every night of the week are now doing other things with their lives, and most of them are two hours and ten gas dollars away. I have wished so many times to run back to the suburbs—to find a way to move back into my parents’ house—just to be able to come home to people who spend their days thinking about me and who are genuinely interested in all the stupid things that happen throughout my day. I’ve had to face the reality that I’m not going to be a super star twenty three year old that makes a lot of money and has it all together. And after being such a big advocate for young marriages, I realize that will never be me. Most, if not all, of my twenties will probably be spent in the absence of a committed significant other. It wasn’t intuitive to me, but I’ve had to choose to believe that all those things are not only okay, but that they are good for me.
In learning to see that billboard of alone time as something God-sent, I am now able to see all of the good things that he is doing through it. I am forced to run to him for fulfillment because there really is no one and nothing else available to serve as my fulfilment. I also, for the first time in my life, have both the time and emotional energy to invest into the development of other people’s spiritual lives.
Discipleship has always been something that God has pressed on my heart. In high school and college, I always tried to give my time and make myself available to doing Bible studies with younger girls and tried to make sure that they knew they were cared about. As much as I may have wanted it, it was always something I had to force into my schedule. It always felt like a sacrifice I was making to choose to take time away from working, studying and hanging out with my friends to do Bible studies with a new believer.
But now God has set me in such a perfect place for it. I’m in Atlanta with a church plant aiming to connect people into a new community. For the first time, I don’t just want those people in my community because I know it’s good for them, but because I actually want godly friends who don’t live an hour away. It’s not this huge sacrifice I am making; it’s just something I eagerly want to do.
In preparing for this, I ordered a new Bible study last week. When I tore that package open and perused through my new Bible study material, I was filled with joy and excitement to start sharing this with new believers. There was just one problem—there was no one to do it with. Having been part of a previous church plant, I’ve learned that discipleship isn’t something I can force people into and it’s not something I am in control of, so I started praying that if God wanted me to invest time into this, he would send me someone willing to learn and to grow in him. Just a few days later, someone came up to me at church and told me that he’s been in contact with a woman we had witnessed to a few weeks back and she wants us to come over and do Bible studies with her.
It is such a joy to look back and see the place that God has brought me out of and to experience the joy that comes from a life lived trusting his goodness and his sovereignty. Many of my old dreams died, but now I have a clean slate. I get to watch God replace the old dreams with new, refined dreams. I get to look forward to the future with a better taste of the risks I’m taking in doing so. I am thankful for all of the good that has been and is being produced through the tension of living through lonely seasons. I am thankful that I’m not that girl wasting my nights on fleeting pleasures in effort to replace my eternal purpose. Most of all, I am thankful that I learned I don’t have to live my life forcing everything into place, I just have to faithfully run to God and trust him as I take small steps of obedience. God does the work of making me stand firm in him, but I will only experience his power and joy when I trust him enough to let him lead me.
“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come… Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm.”
2 Corinthians 1:20-22, 24