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Bored with Divine Geography, Part 2: Longing for an urban south

July 9, 2011

| continued from part 1 |

Back to my birthplace

I was born and raised in Orlando, Florida in 1981 for the first 10 years of my life.  Even though I’ve spent 2/3 of my life in southern Georgia, I often feel a piece of me stayed in Orlando.  I’ve spent the last two decades of my life (yes I’m gonna hit the BIG 30 this year) investigating why I feel this confusing draw toward my birthplace.  I mean all I’ve known most of my life now is southern, old-fashioned, country culture of rural Georgia.  So you’d think I would’ve let go of Orlando.   Not until the last two years or less have I begun to closing the case on this internal investigation.  I bet you’ll never guess what I’ve been discovering as the reason I feel like something is missing inside.

I miss the city.

Sounds silly, I know.  Even sounds a bit strange or immature.  But I’ve discovered something inside of me that longs for the city.  Being in the presence of a city.  It’s contagious.  There’s a certain synergy about a city.  An almost tangible energy to a city.  I don’t know why.  Sure now that I know what I feel I’ve been missing, the bigger discovery is to find out “why” I’ve been missing it.

Why the city?

That’s kind of the real point, right?  I mean if I’m missing “the city” for some silly, immature shallow reason then it’s kind of pointless, right?  But if there’s something bigger here, deeper in my heart, something that God, the Creator of cities and the King of the Heavenly City, has planted in me then it’s worth pursuing.  Right?  I mean if God has designed me personally with a passion for reaching the city, then I want to know that, grow that and go that way.

Me, or the church?

But I seriously doubt that this is just an individual passion, calling or gifting in me.  I think from the Bible and the movement of our socio-economic culture that God has written this passion for the city into the DNA of His body, the church.

Everything I’ve seen, read and heard the last 10 years seems to show the need for God’s people (the church) to move into cities.  People are moving into cities by the truckload.  Rural towns are either shutting down and disappearing or relocating toward industry or colleges and transforming into suburbs of growing cities.  Why?  Simply because that is where people are living, working, playing and dying.  Life happens now in and around cities.  That’s where culture is born:  arts, entertainment, business, education, politics, the marketplace, etc.

If you pay close enough attention, even though it seems that our world is growing farther and farther a part (socially, emotionally, relationally) with things like social media and technology, we’re simultaneously growing closer and closer together (physically, socially, economically).  So while we all live together in one common place, we still are functioning in worlds apart online.

New York City, the double standard

My wife and youngest daughter made a 2-day trip to New York City in May of 2011.  NYC is often heralded as THE standard for pop culture:  arts, entertainment, theater, music, food, business, industry, politics, etc.  Yet when you experience the people who make up this culture, you are left feeling empty, dry, cold and hopeless.  Take a simple ride on the NYC subway and see how together the people are.  Sure they all live in NYC, ride the same subway and live close to one another.  But there is little to no human, face-to-face interaction.  Especially among strangers.  That frustrates and fascinates me at the same time.

I am drawn to that paradox.

Longing for an urban south

You too may know what I mean when I say I am content with where God has me and my family in southern Georgia.  Yet also wonder if God has built me for an urban culture where this paradox exists.  I believe whole heartedly what Paul the apostle says in Acts 17 about God sovereignly placing men where they live for a season so that they would search for and come to know Him.  I love that truth!  Yet I also wonder if this rural south season will soon come to end and God will move my family to a more urban south perhaps.  Or to a city where the people live and move and breathe needing an intimate presence of God’s people to live with them in the paradox.

And to bring some sense and completion to the paradox to show them the mysterious beauty and need of God.

Have you experience this longing too?  I’d love to hear about it.


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