I want my life to matter.
I spent years after college looking for my purpose and my call. When we first heard about the Foundry, Scott’s passion and clear articulation of The Foundry’s mission was attractive to us for many reasons, but lingering under the surface, whether I wanted to admit it or not, was the feeling that I’d finally be a part of something that was set up to help me succeed.
Let me explain. I graduated college in 2008 after an extremely… er… “challenging” break-up. And by “challenging” I mean, there are still months of my life I don’t recall because I was in so much despair that I just shut down. My plans and dreams with this guy shattered, I moved back to New Jersey, rented a room from my brother, and got an eleventh hour job teaching at a very small Christian school. Though I was very involved in church ministries and the worship team, I never felt like I was really giving everything for the good of my community in New Jersey. I kept longing for something else.
Two years post-graduation, in 2010, I got the opportunity to move to and teach in Honduras, a country I’d already been to and very deeply loved. I could feel it—my life was about to begin.
Little did I know that my apathy and lack of motivation were bilingual and could speak to me even in Honduras. I had been sure moving would be the catalyst for living a life that mattered and making a difference in my sphere of influence, but unfortunately, my weaknesses stowed away in my suitcases and I couldn’t shake them. I spent the next two years living in a constant state of anxiety and insecurity, and though I enjoyed my time, became a better worker, and met my husband while there, I never sold myself out for the good of my neighbors while in Honduras.
But, guys, it was okay, because moving to Annapolis and marrying Trevor was definitely going to be the catalyst I needed. He would inspire and encourage me to action. But what I didn’t know was that 2+ hours of commute a day and adjusting to married life, on top of full time jobs, weren’t a recipe for self-sacrifice. Instead, I found myself retreating ever inward, away from others, away from my husband, away from anyone who would ask anything of me. Like a “good” Christian lady, I served at church, but I was not pouring myself out for Annapolis.
You can see why The Foundry was so appealing to me. In looking back, I can see that part of what I wanted when we joined The Foundry was a plug-and-play life, one in which I could do the least amount of work and make the greatest impact.
But, as He usually does, God had other plans for us.
For primarily financial reasons, Trevor and I settled down in Pigtown. We rented on a quiet, out of the way street, and our first year in Baltimore was calm. If you’d asked me during that time, I would have said that I was living the mission of being ‘for the city.’
Shortly after our first son was born, we moved streets, and it was like we had moved to a different world. Suddenly, my ‘commitment’ to my neighborhood and my grandiose explanations about how I loved the racial and socioeconomic diversity of our neighborhood were put seriously to the test. In the course of a year, from October 2014 to October 2015, we experienced a car break in (which required a replacement window), a house break in (which required an extensive clean up and insurance claim, as well as raising our homeowners’ insurance rates), and, tragically, a drug related shooting death in front of our home.
I realized in that year that I was not as committed to being ‘for the city’ as I thought I was. After each one of these increasingly traumatic events, I railed at Trevor for moving us there. I railed at God for asking this of us. I railed at myself for not being able to control the situation I was living in. I spent much of my time complaining and trying to convince myself it was okay to leave “this” place.
But every time I convinced myself I had every right to move and that no one would blame me, I felt a gentle weight from a gentle God, saying, “You aren’t done here yet.”
So, we’ve stayed, and God has shown us what the mission of being ‘for the city’ can really mean. Over the course of the past year and a half, we’ve begun to build relationships, and I’ve realized that all of the issues I have with my neighbors or neighborhood are reflected in my own heart. When I’m angry because my neighbors don’t care for their property the way I want, what I’m able to ignore are the weeds in front of my own steps, or the ways I neglect to care for the people in my own family. When I feel judgment rising up against the way a neighbor chooses to raise money for their family, what I ignore is the fact that I was able to access a quality higher education and escape without debt. As we’ve committed ourselves to loving our neighbors because God loves our neighbors, and for no other reason, we’ve begun to see that our neighbors need to extend the same love and grace to us – because we are equally flawed, equally broken, and equally loved by God. Suddenly, being ‘for the city’ is nothing more than being ‘for’ someone that God created and loves enough to die for. And that’s a mission that’s easy to get behind.
Things haven’t gotten all that much easier. The issues in our neighborhood didn’t just go away overnight because we feel God’s call to live out His love here. But I believe that God has brought us to Baltimore for more than feeling good and sitting in Tabrizi’s on Sunday mornings. It is time to put rubber to the road and see if I really mean it when I say I want to be ‘for the city.’
Because, let’s be honest, it’s easy to be ‘for’ something that doesn’t require anything of you. What our time at The Foundry has begun to teach us, and what we love about The Foundry’s mission, is the recognition that being ‘for’ something that doesn’t seem to be ‘for’ you is a mission of self-sacrifice. It’s hard work. It asks a lot and it takes a lot and sometimes it can be draining. But knowing we’re in it with other Christ followers – that there are many of us committed to being ‘for’ the city – makes it easier to see how our little families, spread out over this city, can begin to make an actual impact on the lives of people around us. It also reveals us to ourselves and reminds us of the grace others have to extend to us on a day to day basis – it reminds us that all around us, and especially in our home at The Foundry, people are ‘for’ us.
And over all of that hovers the love of a God who is truly for us. Everything we do falls under the umbrella of the One who champions our cause, celebrates our victories, encourages us in our defeats, cries with us in our sorrows, stretches us in our weaknesses, and heals us in our brokenness. “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
If God is for us, who can we be against?