These past few months have been interesting to say the least…we’ve left the church that we thought we would always be on staff with, we’ve left the house that was absolutely perfect for our family, we’ve left the town that had many of our closest friends — many of the things that are most “comfortable” are now behind us.
This journey has caused us to evaluate many things in our lives: what we believe, how we believe, what we hold most near and dear to our hearts and it has caused me specifically to realize the blinders that I have been wearing as I go through my life. Our journey into the city has landed us in an area unlike any we have ever lived in before. Compared to my hometown (Chipley, Florida), Loganville was a bustling metropolis, but it’s nothing compared to living in Atlanta. We are living in an area that has over 12,000 people inside of a one mile radius from us — and that number goes quickly over 100,000 if you expand the circle a little. It isn’t just the number of people that is different than Loganville or Chipley. Both of these towns are very conservative, and that is not the case at all in Atlanta, specifically East Atlanta Village. I have joked with friends that EAV has more Rainbow flags than American flags — but in all seriousness that is absolutely the truth! We’ve seen life, and the way others live that is a much different life than we were accustomed to.
Another aspect that we have seen differently in the past few months is church. When you are on staff at a church it is difficult to visit other churches (for the obvious reasons.) Over the past few months we have visited several different churches, some like what we were used to, and others not as much (an Episcopalian and Presbyterian church among those that were not quite the typical experience for us.)
Through all of this change, all of this seeing things differently than I was used to I have realized my life has been lived with blinders on — (you know those things that they sometimes put on horses to keep them focused forward). I have lived my life with a narrow focus, only seeing things from my perspective, from my traditions, from my beliefs, from my presuppositions about how others live. I doubt I would have ever been bold enough to say it, but I have lived as though the only way to be right is to think like I do.
(To be clear: I am not talking about issues of clear Biblical standards, so don’t hear me promoting any form of universalism. However – we tend to get hung up on things that aren’t those clear items in Scripture, but rather our preferences, traditions, and beliefs…)
And frankly, that’s just sad.
I wonder if many of us would say this is true of our lives. We tend to seclude ourselves into groups that think just like we do, dress/talk/drink/party/live just like we do, and demonize any that dare to do things differently.
I wonder if the issues that we are facing in our great country — the partisan divide that separates us, the racial tension that is now tearing us apart, and other divisive aspects are made worse, if not directly caused by our unwillingness to see and engage those who do life a little differently than we do.
I wonder if those of us inside the church are guilty of complaining and attacking those who do church differently than us because we aren’t willing to have a conversation with them, to realize that they are just normal people just like us.
I wonder if we have elevated our traditions, our way of life, to the point that we think it is the only “right” way to do things. (I’m looking at you Southern Baptists…and I’m looking at me.)
I wonder what would happen if we were to remove these blinders and go across the street to have conversations with those who aren’t exactly like us.
I wonder what would happen if we were to take the time to learn the names of “that person” that we disagree with. Learn their story. See life from their perspective. Get to know the person behind the tag that we have placed on them.
I think we would all be surprised to see the difference it would make.
We might just realize that people in the city are way more friendly than we would have ever expected, that the liberals can be just as awesome as the conservatives, and that the Presbyterians even use the Bible in their church services just like the Baptists do…
Join me in taking the blinders off and seeing the world, the people around us. We might just like it more than we thought!