Register today for VBS 2022!

Living as a Christ follower in a transient town

By Tim Edminster

My parents have lived in the same house since before I was born and their next-door neighbors have stayed the same my entire life. Going through school and having to deal with friends moving and living in different school zoning districts, I came to think that there would be a brighter day where, once I grew up, there would come a time where everyone settled and stayed in the same place for decades, living life together. I then settled in Gainesville.

Those who know me at all (you don’t even need to know me well), know that friendships and community are big priorities for me. And those that know me a bit better also know that I find meeting people pretty uncomfortable; I tend to be shy and self-conscious (which are not great qualities, but they are accurate descriptors). As you can imagine, living in Gainesville, a city where people come and go frequently, sounds like it would be one of my worst nightmares.

To be perfectly honest, it can be pretty frustrating. You get close to people and share your life with them and then they move on and leave you behind! That’s just rude. And sad (for me). And then the cycle begins again! Having been in Gainesville for what’s becoming alarmingly close to 20 years, God has definitely heard my thoughts on the matter multiple times. But I would be lying to say that I have not loved the people I have met, the community I have found, the people I have been able to minister to, and the life I have here.

Reminding yourself of the truth is important in any situation; the Bible reminds us many times how vital this is. As comfortable as it would be to settle down with the same people and never branch outside of that, that’s not what God wants for us. We are called to be part of both our physical community as well as our spiritual community, and there are no stipulations based on how transient the community is. We are called to love others whole-heartedly, particularly within the body, as the world should recognize us by the love we have for one another. Difficult as it is, love is best when it is not mitigated by fear. C.S. Lewis wrote in The Four Loves, “Christ did not teach and suffer that we might become, even in the natural loves, more careful of our own happiness. If a man is not uncalculating towards the earthly beloveds whom he has seen, he is none the more likely to be so towards God whom he has not. We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armour. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it.” I hate to think of what it would it be like to be somewhere where I am alone and ignored because those around me are insulating themselves, with no place to be heard, known, and loved. It would be contrary to who we are called to be to those around us. And that’s to say nothing about using our giftings!

God provided all of us with gifts and talents to serve and bless the people around us in our own unique way. What a loss it is to have those gifts hidden, talents buried in the ground! I don’t know about you all, but I find that there is something so special and joyful about being able to love others in the ways I can do best.

I have wondered why God, who has wired me to desire close, long-term, interpersonal relationships, put me in a place where that’s hard to achieve. If I had had my choice, I probably would not have met anyone beyond the social circle I had when I was 18 years old. But change is inevitable; and change doesn’t mean bad. I have had the chance to meet and get to know many wonderful people I wouldn’t have otherwise met if I had my short-sighted preference. It also helps that I can be stubborn, so it’s no surprise I continue to go for the gold and develop close relationships. It gives me the chance to love others well and be loved well in return. For example, a couple of years ago, Gianluca and Debbie Cueva moved back to Gainesville for Gianluca’s two-year position as a pastoral resident. Because I never seem to learn my lesson (or refuse to learn the wrong lesson), I got to know them very well knowing they were going to leave; they became two of my closest friends and am so thankful for them. Though I did my best to convince them otherwise, they moved away; we’re still in frequent contact, though, and I’d hate to imagine life without them. Who knows, maybe the best use of my gifts and the best way to continue growing is for me to love people well in a transient place. It’s such a great moment when you are told how thankful others are that you welcomed them in and made them feel included and loved.

Our God is a God who provides; He is not unaware of our needs and desires. I had a friend many years ago who had an opportunity to fulfill a long-standing dream of hers, but knew it was not the right choice for her at the time. I remember her telling me that she was tempted to hold onto it, because what if that was her last chance? What if that opportunity never came again? She concluded that it was contrary to God’s nature to not provide for His people and that she couldn’t make the choice based on fear, knowing that whatever God had for her in the future was good and that opportunity would come again at the right time if she was meant to do it (It did!). That conversation has stuck with me for many years since and has encouraged me to make many decisions that push me to grow and live by faith, particularly in this area.

God has been so faithful and so good to me over the years. He has provided so much in the way of community, even where I am. If you were to ask me how I manage to live and minister in a place where people come and go so often, I would tell you that I’m doing it the only way I can by trusting God. Is it easy? Absolutely not. But it is definitely worth it.