This summer marks my fourth year living in Hoboken.
It is hard to believe I’ve been here over 1460 days already. This is the longest I have lived in one area since my high school days. I used to hate change, but after half of my life being filled with it, it has become harder to settle in somewhere and embrace a place as home. My tendency is to always look towards the horizon and wonder what is next. This year, people we love who have been here since the beginning of my time in Hoboken are beginning to move. God is calling them elsewhere. After years of always leaving, it is strange to be the one who stays.
Four years ago, I quit the best job I’ve ever had and left a community I loved dearly to move here for the same reasons most people move to the New York City area: I had big dreams and wanted to chase them. I wanted to pursue my own glory. (Oh, and also because I fell in love!)
I have had a love/hate relationship with New York. She is wildly exciting, but she is also ruthless and exhausting.
Being a part of a different kind of faith community during this time has pushed me to consider bigger questions. What if God doesn’t care about how I get my paycheck? What if His dream for me is to build relationships, be the best kind of friend, and make an impact in my community? What if my living in Hoboken has nothing to do with me at all, but instead how God wants to work through me?
God has used living here to shatter my heart, expose my brokenness, and increase my reliance on Him. Through both my marriage and everyday experiences, God has exposed the ugliness and self-centeredness of my pride. While I was making progress with this realization, my trip to Uganda highlighted it even further. In the middle of a Hillsong United concert last fall about a month after I returned from Africa, God interrupted my worship experience in a powerful way. As we sang:
“Break my heart / for what breaks yours / everything I am / for Your kingdom’s cause / as I walk from earth to eternity”
I broke down and began to weep as I wrestled with God and the state of my heart and wrote these words:
It’s easier to love people in Uganda because the risk of rejection and humiliation is so much less. It’s easier because they are so open to the gospel. They recognize their brokenness, their need for Jesus, their need for hope, the need for all things to be made new. It’s harder to love New York because it is my every day reality. I have to live with the consequences of rejection, of being an alien in my own town.
I want to love bigger, to love boldly, to throw off others’ expectations and run after things that matter.
I’m getting to the point where nothing else matters but the gospel. I want to spend every day being a part of putting what’s broken back together. I want to be a part of Gods renewing work and crazy love full time, not in my free time, not on the weekends. But I don’t know what that looks like yet.
I think God used Bob to invite me to Africa to help me get a better grasp on His utter vastness. He is present here in New York City and in Gulu, Uganda. He is not different, He remains the same. He loves me, and He loves you, and he loves the women of the Restore Safe House and the children of Restore Leadership Academy. The difference lies is our availability and willingness to let him in. In this part of the United States, most of us lack for nothing. We push down our demons, we stifle our need for community and our need for help.
The truth is we share are more alike than we are different.
It is becoming clear to me that there are certain lies I have believed that have been coloring my experience of living in this area. The stereotype of New York City is that everyone here is has come for the pursuit of money, power, and fame. People will stab each other in the back and trample each other in order to get to the top. What I’m finally realizing is that while there may be plenty who are like that, most of the people I have met are actually not like that at all. My Dinner Group reminds me of this as we meet together week after week and share our joys and struggles. Meeting up with other Hoboken Bloggers reminds me of this as we share ideas and a common passion for writing and local business.
I am not alone here. There are others like me, who hope for and are pursuing similar things – to create, connect with others, and make the world a better place.
Slowly but surely, my heart is changing. Though the process is sometimes painful, I know it will be worth it. I am still learning what it looks like to live this out – to embrace that maybe God brought me here for His purposes and not my own, to put others before myself, to chase my dreams in a way that honors God, to truly love the city in where I have been planted. I am so curious to know what life will look like in another four years. I want to have my prayers and questions answered, but most of all I want to look back and know that I was successful in loving those around me in ways both big and small.
What makes your current city feel (or not feel) like home? How do you see yourself making a difference in your community?