Most people living here in Nashville are transplants. Growing up in Denver where natives are so rare they pridefully represent with bumper stickers, I’ve been familiar with this culture most of my life. These aren’t cities where people grow up and grow old. They are cities people flock to when they are escaping their small town lives or looking for a fresh start.
Because of this, I’ve seen a lot of people come and go over the years, but I often wonder if some of them were supposed to stay. Nashville is a city God is specifically calling people to. You either move here for music, or you move here simply because you feel a pull you can’t ignore. How well your time here goes depends on how obedient you are, how willing you are to dig your roots down deep, and how committed you are to the call.
My first six months in Nashville, I traveled. A lot. I was so excited to be within driving distance of so many new cities, and all the cute, southern small towns, and dozens of beaches. I wasn’t well connected within my new church family yet, so when I was home I was bored. Then God interrupted my adventures. I had just come home from a two week trip to Colorado when God told me to stay in Tennessee the rest of the year. “I can’t plant you in Nashville if you aren’t actually IN Nashville,” He said.
So two weeks later when my dad had a spinal fusion, I made sure my favorite anesthesiologist was on the case giving me play-by-plays from the OR because I couldn’t be there myself. I didn’t even drive down to Chattanooga because the highway dips into Georgia and I was under very specific instructions to stay in state lines. And when the holidays rolled around, I still obeyed and stayed in Nashville. Due to unforeseen circumstances, my family couldn’t come to me either. It was my first Christmas alone. It sounds sad and pathetic, I know. That’s how it felt at the time. But looking back now I’ve seen purpose in it all.
There was also purpose in staying in my new home of Nashville when my family was up against other health issues and tragedies, or big happy moments and holidays, or when I just wanted to be there because I missed them. When most people visit their family and friends many times a year, I’ve learned not to. I love them dearly, but I’ve discovered a value in staying in the place of “here.”
Being planted in a community and building relationship with those in your direct vicinity is a part of your calling. But you can’t be rooted down deep if you’re hopping from place to place or still trying to stay tied to your old life. I’ve seen people forfeit the life God had for them here in Nashville because they couldn’t let go of what and who kept calling them from back in their former cities. They still felt they were needed in their old ministry so they kept going back to help with this and that, when all the while God wanted them to serve their new community.
I’m not encouraging anyone to cut ties completely and ghost all your family and friends. But I am hoping to challenge you to weigh your priorities. Will you follow Jesus no matter the cost?
Sometimes even if what you are doing here and now is less enticing, it can be holier than what you would be doing there in the big moments of life, simply because it is what God asked you to do. That might look like staying home to pack boxes before a move at the exact moment your dad is having a stent put in his carotid artery on the other side of the country. Or it might look like sweeping your floor while your new friend cries as she’s learning to walk out her faith instead of going “back home” for a best friend’s milestone birthday bash. Or it might look like stacking chairs at your new church instead of leading worship at your favorite conference at your old church. Yes, God will ask you to do things like that. And it is good.
Many are going to disagree with what I’m writing today. Family especially comes first to them, no matter what. We live in a day and age where we can follow Jesus and also stay so connected to everyone. But if God is physically moving us somewhere, that might mean disconnecting a bit from your old environment. It won’t mean you love your family or friends any less; it simply means you are willing to follow Jesus at any cost. I think God values our physical location more than we realize sometimes.
The Cost of Following JesusLuke 9:57-62
As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.” He said to another person, “Come, follow me.” The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.” Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.” But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”
Jesus didn’t let these men follow Him and also stay where they were. They had to make a choice to be in physical proximity to Him and leave everything and everyone else behind.
I wonder if the disciples who did choose to follow Him experienced a few mundane moments while with Jesus. Were they traveling for days between towns and asking themselves how on earth that was a better use of their time than with their families or at their jobs? Did they ever have a day where they missed a wedding or the birth of a nephew or an anniversary celebration because they were just simply walking on a boring dirt path? Or watching Jesus minister to people all day? Did they always know the significance of the times they were in, or did they feel FOMO sometimes?
Would you still follow Jesus if it meant never seeing your family again or not being able to care for them in a time of need? Would you still follow His call on your life if you had to say no to ever visiting your previous church community and friends? Most of us would say no. We don’t feel the need to choose between the two. However some days, we absolutely must choose.
Sometimes we don’t see God’s favor in a place because we haven’t stuck around long enough to wait for it. We keep one foot in our old season while stepping into the new one. We want what we had previously and also what is up ahead. We have trouble letting go of what was, then we wonder why we don’t see God show up in monumental ways in the here and now. God wants our obedience – our yes – BEFORE He blesses a place or thing. He’s always after our heart first. If your heart is tied to something in the past, it isn’t tethered to Jesus, and you’re likely missing out on something here and now that He has for you.
Understanding where God has you spiritually often first begins with fully embracing where He has you physically. God is strategic about where and when He places each of us on this earth.
From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.Acts 17:26-27
If God has moved you to a new place, there is a divine reason. If God is keeping you in a place, there is still a specific purpose. Your physical location is not an accident. It might not look as profound as you think. You might not be on a big stage or be the CEO of a tech startup. It might be about building relationships and discipling the people right in front of you in the everyday.
Life is often not about the big moments. It’s about who you are doing life with day in and day out. It’s about who God wants you pouring into while you make dinner in your kitchen. It’s about a conversation you have over coffee where you can share wisdom with someone who is struggling. It’s also about you growing to know the Lord and His love deeper through new experiences. And sometimes he has to move you physically so you cross paths with the exact right person He wants you to meet.
I’ve learned to trust God with my family in a new way since I’ve been away from them. He loves them so much more than I ever could, so He doesn’t always need me there in a medical crisis or for every celebration. And I’ve learned to embrace the seemingly mundane of everyday life in the “here.” I’ve seen the fruit of giving my attention and care to the people God places in front of me here while He surrounds my family and friends back in Denver. I’ve also seen how He’s provided new people to step into the ministries I served in as I transitioned out. He doesn’t need me there anymore; He needs me here.
Likewise, God doesn’t need you to be there anymore. Wherever “here” is for you, He needs you to be here now. Here is holy ground.