Over the past few years, we’ve been asked hundreds of questions about our family. Do we REALLY like each others as much as it seems? (The answer is generally YES, but not always… especially if you’re asking before my morning coffee and/or when it’s past my bedtime and the kids are still practicing music.) Do we ever argue? (Um… YES, frequently. But, we can usually work through our differences and, while incredibly imperfect, we’re stronger for it.)
However, this is the question we’re asked the most: Have you ever thought about writing a book? (At this point, we all laugh whenever anyone asks. We know our story is filled with serendipitous stories. Honestly, too many to believe… if we didn’t actually experience them for ourselves.)
But this probably won’t be the book everyone expects. The words of these pages will, undoubtedly, share our family’s story: starting Be The Change Youth Initiative, traveling the US in a RV, landing in a city and creating a new life from scratch… in the middle of a world-wide pandemic, and, of course, our story of church hurt and our journey with mental health. But, how I’m choosing to tell our story, woven into the fabric of our growing community, reflected in the lives of the strangers we’ve met, who have become like family, closer in many ways than our extended, biological family.
Our story is FAR from over. Our life is still inexplicably unpredictable and chaotic at times, so content is never in short supply. But, after spending almost three years of our lives immersed in the conversations of mental health, church hurt, and the search for genuine community, our family has found itself in the most intriguing of situations: Creating community, outside the institutional church, through simple acts of using our gifts and talents to create positive change in our neighborhoods.
From the outside looking in, our life seems complicated, over-whelming, and inimitable. (And, let me just say, on most days, this is accurate. Our life is all of those things.) But, there is beauty in the mess. And grace. And, from those things, something beautiful in emerging:
When I first started documenting our journey, I called the blog Searching for Jesus in America. For obvious reasons, an appropriate title for chronicling our travels around the country. But, after Covid-19 grounded us in Chattanooga, which, ironically, is the the most “churched” city (per capita) in the country, the name began taking on a new meaning. In so many ways, we’re in the epicenter of what some people refer to as American-ized Christianity. The term means different things to different people, subjectively shaped from bad experiences, but also from an apparent adoption of cultural mores, categorically in opposition to the gospel.
The temptation would be to simply change the name of this space to Searching of Jesus in Chattanooga. But the truth is… I’m not really searching for Jesus. We never were. We WERE searching for where the Lord was at work. We were searching for people who were so busy being the hands and feet of Jesus they didn’t have time to post about it, or profit from it. (Honestly, this is why you see HUGE gaps of time in this blog.)
But, at the same time, to NOT chronicle what we’re witnessing in this crazy experiment of life outside the confines of ecclesiology, would be a dereliction of our responsibilities to speak out against the institutions of man as we continue to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. And, please don’t miss what I’m saying here: We have created institutions (churches) that neither reflect the heart, nor the mission, of Jesus. The bride of Christ, is the church… as a people… committed to living in community, abounding in grace, committed to caring for people. Period.