As I move toward graduation in the next few days, I’ve been really emotional. If you’ve ever completed a long road to achieve a goal, you probably know what I’m talking about. You get to the end, and you’re excited about finishing, but you’re also not sure what you’re going to do when you get tossed out into the world. Even if you do know, change is scary.
I’ve also been emotional because this journey has been a little different. When I was in college the first time, I fell by the wayside. I was in a world where I was meeting people of all different faiths and ethnicities, didn’t have to go to church every Sunday, and was able to see a world beyond the little town I came from. Unfortunately, part of the world I saw was ugly and full of darkness—and I was hooked. By the time I realized it and tried to fix not being in church—which I thought was the real problem—I was lost.
I didn’t understand one very big concept: if you really, really want to feel supported, loved, and cared for, you have to have a relationship with God. I didn’t really know what that meant, and I struggled over many years to find out. I bounced from church to church trying to find a community that would help me “figure it out”, support me, and hold up the mirror that would show me who God thought I really was. While church isn’t the end-all, be-all, in order to have a relationship with Him, you have to find a community who will love you through it and your flaws. Since I couldn’t find that, I gave up on it, and worst of all, I gave up on Him. Every time I tried again, I was met with the same result, leading to the same frustration and feeling like no one really cared. I was looking for the right thing (a relationship with Him), but hanging it all on one thing (the wrong thing and the wrong thing to do).
"To know who God really is, you have to find a community who will show you who God really is."
Now we circle back to why I’m emotional. When I started this latest journey in my education, I knew how the story would play out: I would probably stop going to church due to lack of time, no one would care, and I would give up again. As God usually does, He pleasantly surprised me. By this point, I understood what having a relationship with Him was, so I knew that even if I wasn’t going to church, I would at least know that He wasn’t giving up on me and that I could trust Him to hold me up. But that’s not what happened. My City Chapel friends and family reached out to me, told me they missed me when I missed long periods due to mountains of schoolwork, never guilt-tripped me, and most importantly, they never let me go. That’s what I call love. However, to know who God really is, you have to find a community who will show you who God really is. He is love, and His people should be also. And it’s beautiful and it’s overwhelming and my heart is so full it brings tears to my eyes.
As I was writing this, I kept hearing, “fishers of men”. Now, I don’t claim to be a true bible scholar or interpreter, but when I think of that phrase, I think of two things: 1. A tribe that reflects who He is: love, and 2. A fisherman who hangs onto his catch instead of someone who throws his catch back because it wasn’t _______ enough (fill in the blank however you see fit). A true community will love you through the good, bad, and ugly. They will keep you humble, but celebrate you. Because let’s be real: even fish who make the cut have flaws, but regardless, God couldn’t imagine a world without you—or any one of His fish, or his children—in it. And in the words of a friend that I was describing my experience to, “when you find a community who’s excited about you, that’s your tribe.” And she’s right. That may or may not be City Chapel for you. However, be sure that wherever you go, the tribe celebrates Him by following His greatest commandment: love.
So, City Chapel family, I want to thank you. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for knowing just when I needed you, and most importantly, thank you for reminding me who God really is and that I’ve never been alone. Thank you for never throwing me back. Diploma or not, finding and knowing Him is the greatest accomplishment of all—and you have been a big part of the greatest journey of my life.