When I first arrived in Athens in the Spring of 2008, I wrote a series of blog posts entitled, “Exile in Athens.” They cannot be found on the current blog so obviously they were incredibly negative and at times downright ugly; they were purged almost two years ago with a lot of other twisted writing.
I have to once again apologize for the meanness that I exhibited when writing those posts; it was because of my own pride and prejudice (not intended to be a pun, though I have read most of Jane Austen’s classic) that I was not able to make any friends until about a year and a half ago. The one’s I have made have been real blessings and though they cannot replace my college friends, they have asserted themselves into my life in their own way.
I have learned a lot about myself and Southern society (at least the Northern Alabama version of it) and I have to say there is still a lot there of which I am not fond. However, I have learned to respect the differences in perspective and culture. I have learned that not everyone who lives in Northern Alabama is ignorant and that many of the people here have good hearts despite sometimes barely making ends meet.
Clements Baptist Church has become the first church home to I have had since 2005 and I am pleased to say that I will be leaving it without scandal and without any failure of church leadership. I have been very blessed to have a pastor who not only teaches the Scriptures but cares about the people he teaches. I have been blessed in relationships with Justin Beddingfield, Robbie Storch, Joseph Billions, and so many countless others. I have been able, if only for a few weeks, to help teach the CBC Transitions class and to see more people come in hungry for the truth of God’s word. I have become fond of praying for them and for God’s own work and will in their lives. I have done so many things in ministry with CBC that I thought I would never get to do and I grateful to be able to have served with all of you.
But the Exile is over.
When I was in Arkansas, Candice and I were just lightly discussing the possibilities of coming there and after one really good option fell through, it seemed like it would be a longer road than both of us would like. However, God was just waiting to see what our response would be and by his grace we both responded in faith. It was not long after that that God opened a door for me to be able to move to Arkansas.
And I am taking that door.
As I write this I realize that this means that I am leaving home, that my family and all of its problems and joys will now be beyond my reach. In a true sense, God will have to watch over them now and inspire them to step up and be the people he has called them to be. In college I was more than happy to run away from home, but now I realize that this could be the final break and the beginning of my adult life and I have mixed emotions. I will miss talking my mom while going to the commissary, I will miss hearing Ian complain about Dollar General, I will miss watching Frasier, Dr. Who, How I Met Your Mother, or some other show with Erin, and I will miss the few opportunities I have to see and connect with my Dad. All of these things I have taken for granted; all of these things I will soon no longer have.
But the signal from God is clear: the Exile is over; move to Arkansas.
You see I have been stuck in Athens against my will for two and half of the four years that I have been here. However, in the last year and a half I have settled down and accepted that God’s plan is greater than mine. When I was dating Wendy, I could have looked for opportunities to move to the Atlanta area, but I did not because I was not. All other exit strategies whether jobs, seminaries, or other things have been miserable and utter failures; God has wanted me to stay firmly in Athens. So, when God finally lets down the barriers and says, “Go…” and it is really a shock and surprise.
A very pleasant, but yet really sobering surprise.
I don’t know if I will like Conway, Arkansas any better than Athens; I have only been there once. But I have learned from this experience that to prematurely blanket judge a place and its people is not only wrong…but just plain, well, ignorant. All I know is that, unless God does something pretty drastic and convincing, I will be leaving home and moving to Arkansas after Labor Day weekend…that is in exactly two weeks.
Act IV is over…on to Act V.