Since actually being in Tennessee the spiritual battle hasn’t gotten easier, but it has changed a lot. I find every day I frantically look through my Bible hoping to find a verse I had never noticed before that says something along the lines of, “and if thee would rather, travelest back to Tampa”. But what do you know, it’s not in there. You know whats in there a LOT though? Verses about dying to yourself, caring for your neighbors more than yourself, running the race, tending to your ministry, etc. Yeah. There are LOADS of verses about those things. I think especially of Philippians 2:3-4 because my Father has wisely led me to it several times recently ;
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
The biggest struggle has simply been the lack of community. And that’s okay because I know it does exist for me here, I just haven’t found it yet. I went to three different church services on Sunday because they happened to all be at different times and heck, I had the day off and literally nothing to do because, ahem, I have no friends up here yet. I admit that just being in a church makes me feel a small sense of home. Rubbing shoulders with believers, whether I know them or not, gives me peace and slight butterflies thinking how cool it is that people all over the world love the Lord and gather to sing and speak and reflect on it.
That being said, I didn’t much care for any of the churches. For no dramatic reason other than they weren’t my particular taste and that’s allowed. I’ve got quite the list of churches to try so my heart isn’t devastated and wallowing in abandonment just yet. I do spend most of my time talking to a 16 month old, and it’s true I am ITCHING to explore Memphis while getting to know new friends, but God is teaching me lots of lessons in the meantime.
Because I have some evenings and weekends to myself – and no one yet to spend that time with – I’ve been spending a lot of time outdoors reading and biking and walking and picking up leaves to press in my Bible. The other day as I was meandering along a path, half listening to The National, I was thinking about glimpses of the kingdom. When I led Watermark’s woman’s study last semester this is something I feel like we talked about often. Those moments that show you a fraction of the joy that God has for us when we’re no longer in the earthly kingdom. In our women’s study, we’d be amazed at the lightness felt after sharing our pains and exclaim, “this is what we’re supposed to feel! all the time!”. I was thinking of this because I’ve had several of these glimpses recently. Here’s just three:
My last Sunday in Tampa: I’ll never be able to translate the moment adequately into words. I’m standing in the center aisle of a church that I have had tremendous growth in waiting to take communion. The wood floor that I’m walking on has felt fallen tears, the feet of running children, and dancing. The words on the screen ahead of me are of my favorite hymn: Come Thou Fount. A song that I have sung in joy, grief, confusion, and praise. The people singing on either side of the aisle are friends that have cried with me, pushed me, learned with me, sometimes offended me, and often forgiven me. The physical act of ripping the bread and dipping it into the juice is something I have done with Watermark every Sunday for the last three years before this, yet the spiritual and emotional weight of it is different every time. My head is going a million different directions (see previous post), but for those 30 seconds that I am standing in the center aisle, listening to my brothers and sisters sing one of the most lovely poems ever written, partaking in the holy act of communion in a church I adore… I feel nothing but peace.
My last night in Tampa: my last night in Tampa wasn’t in Tampa – technically it was in St. Pete. A friend [who I instinctively want to refer to as “new” but can’t because we’ve actually known each other some years] and I are deriving through ice cream shops and hotel lobbies and parks and pubs. We settle in for a cider or two and for the first time since maybe I was 9, play Battle Ship. I had been nothing but anxious leading up to my departure and yet suddenly, only hours before I had to wake up the next morning to drive off, I was carelessly laughing about nothing at all. I wasn’t anxious, I wasn’t nervous – I was enjoying my friend. I was experiencing the lightness of community and that’s really lovely.
Today in Tennessee: I was holding the sweet little man I help care for in my arms so that we were face to face. He had been in a fussy mood all day and as a result, I was too. As he looks up to me I without thinking blow on his hair because it always makes him laugh. He giggled, put his chunky and innocent and adorable hands on my cheeks, touched his nose to mine, then gave me the wettest kiss the world has ever seen. I have been amazed at his cuteness many many times, but I swear my heart almost exploded in joy. It was almost too sweet for me to bare and all I could think about was this must be a sliver of how God feels about us. We are his children. He must feel the same (only divine) inexplicable joy when we reach to him with our puny arms and try to touch our face to His.
Glimpses into God’s kingdom overwhelm me in the best possible way. I feel so full in those moments – I can’t fathom what it will be like to be in His fullness, to experience every part of His goodness and love. I’m giddy just thinking about it.
[ p.s. listen to Preson Phillips’ song entitled “Until God’s Realm Comes” to hear what made me first start watching for these glimpses, and also hear where I blatantly stole this entry title from ]