As recent college graduates, we’ve spent a lot of time in the past few years packing and unpacking boxes. Since leaving for college in 2012, I haven’t lived in the same room, let alone the same state, for more than 9 months at a time, and this year as a fellow is no different. I’m practically an expert at packing my “life” into my Nissan Rogue and road-tripping hundreds of miles to the next new adventure- whether it be a new year at school, a summer at camp, a few weeks at home, or, most recently, the fellows program in Nashville. In the midst of all these transitions, it’s been tempting for me to simply “camp out” where I am- to decorate my room sparsely, to rely on my GPS, and to only dig an inch deep into the communities surrounding me- because, hey, I’m only here temporarily, so what’s the point in trying?
My RUF pastor at Davidson tried to convince me to join the church I attended in college (which almost worked), and he based his argument on Jeremiah 29:5, God’s words to his people in exile, in a temporary place:
marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
When I heard these verses read at church last week, I realized that this fellows year is truly a year of planting gardens. I’m not trying to be dramatic, because obviously I’m not in exile, but I’m in a temporary place. A fast-approaching May 20th will mark the end of my time as a fellow and potentially the end of my time in Nashville. But, through this program, God is teaching me how (and why) to do the messy and difficult work of digging deep into my own heart and into the places and people in my life right here and right now, in Nashville, Tennessee. Two months in, I’ve been nudged, encouraged, and sometimes straight-up forced to plunge into my own story and my own heart sin, into the gospel narrative, and into relationships with my fellow fellows, my host family, my church family, and my co-workers.
In some ways, this garden-planting work is scary. I’m afraid of being and becoming so invested that I’m hurt when all of this comes to an end.
In many ways, it’s also exhausting. My fellow fellows will probably agree that planting gardens ain’t no easy task. I’m sleepy from a long string of full days. I’m emotionally worn out from digging into the mess of my own heart and the hearts of those around me. And I’m weary from analyzing, questioning, and even doubting everything I knew (or thought I knew) about God.
But in many other ways, it’s been an absolute joy. I’ve been overwhelmed by the joy and excitement of new spaces and new communities and new revelations.
I’m realizing that I’ll spend the rest of my life planning for the next step if I’m not careful. So, regardless of my plans for next year, for now, I’m here. I’m beginning to trust the Lord that this is where I’m supposed to be. I will seek the peace and prosperity of Nashville, invest in its soil, and invest in its people. And I’ll live like I’m staying a while.
Photo from: https://www.smilinggardener.com/organic-soil-management/how-to-prepare-soil-for-a-garden