The end of the year is always a time to reflect over what went on and what you’ve learned from the past year. For me, this is an opportunity to reflect over the last 15 months of being inNew York. These are lessons we have learned personally and from watching and interacting with others in the city. I’ve broken them up into 3 posts because I have a tendency to write too much, on Monday I posted 15-11, today is 10-6, and Friday 5-1. I’d love to hear the lessons you have learned over the past year.
10. Once a pastor, always a pastor
Pastoral ministry is a calling that never stops. Once you take the title of pastor, everywhere you go, you are a pastor. It isn’t reserved for Sundays or office hours, it is a title that comes with expectations. At times this has been difficult for me because I like to “turn off” and have down time, which I had as a Civil Engineer. No one asked me to design a road that would solve their personal traffic problems outside of the office.
This has been good for me, refining me so that I don’t stop pastoring when I come home, and it has challenged me to always be looking to share Christ with my life. It is something I have to remember though, that when we have people in our home from our church or even outside the church, I’m representing the church and Jesus for better or worse.
Honestly, I think most Christians treat their faith as if it has an on and off switch instead of it being constant. The expectations can be, at times, overwhelming and I’m learning to delegate to our deacons and leaders as much as possible and take a refreshing day off, but I’m thankful for this calling. It’s made me a better friend, husband, and father.
9. It takes a city & a smaller community to raise a kid
Kids are a joy to a city with more dogs than children. Even if the stats don’t verify that, it certainly feels that way. It has been amazing to see the demeanor of entire subway change because of our kids. In fact, people go out of their way to help our family get around the city. There is so much to offer our children here, from museums, to zoos, from sports teams to the arts, they are exposed to so much culture and we love it. It’s also been remarkable to see our kids adjust to the space given to them.
It feels as though the city is helping raise our kids, but we also know they need a smaller community that cares for them. Our church has been that community, they are helping raise our kids whether they know it or not. When I try to teach Eli something, I’m not surprised when he tells me he learned that from a teacher in our kid’s ministry or one of his babysitters.
For us, babysitters are part of the family, not people that serve a function. We know our children are better behaved and have more joy when they have a number of people (single, married, male, female) in their lives who love Jesus and love them.
8. Everyone needs community
This is true of everyone, anyone who says differently, either with their words or their lifestyle, is lying and likely lonely. The city has a way of pressing that into you even more. In a city of 8.5 million, it can be a lonely place without people who you can care for and who care for you.
But the reality is that it’s not a city thing, the loss of community results in greater consumerism, discontentment, depression, and loneliness. We have all been made to desire to be known and know others. We thrive in that environment. But it’s never easy and requires sacrifice to have any decent community. From sacrificing with your parenting methods, your schedule, your workload, or your finances, community is worth the cost.
So whether that is paying more to live closer to those you love, letting your kids skip their naptime and risking meltdowns, or choosing to have a little less “me-time”, you won’t miss those things when they result in community.
7. It’s better to be in the city during natural disasters than outside the city
We’ve been in the city during a blizzard and outside the city during an earthquake and a hurricane. For some reason, the city seems to thrive on natural disasters, everyone seems to join forces and be concerned for one another.
But if you are trying to get back into the city, forget about it. We were on vacation for Hurricane Irene while our kids were being babysat in the city. We moved our flights up in hopes to avoid the hurricane, but every airport in theNew York Cityarea went on full shutdown. We had to fly into Washington-Dulles (as the hurricane was hitting), wait out the night with some family members and drive up the next day.
I think this is something I love about the city. It bans together through trial, seeking to persevere together and I believe that is inspiring.
6. This city will make or break your faith
In the bible belt, Christianity at least appears normal. There are plenty of full churches on Sunday and claiming to be a Christian can be an advantage at work or in gathering friendships. There are many who claim to be Christian for its benefits package, but never truly live like they know Jesus.
In the city, there’s no point in faking it. It is a disadvantage in a city that sees churches as harmful to renting space in schools, let alone claims an absolute truth of Jesus being God. I’ve seen many people move to the city and for the first time in their lives are faced with questions of what they really believe. Their family is stretched thin, their job sucks the joy of life out of them, and they wonder if Jesus really is who He said He was, The Lord and Savior who died to pay for the sins of the world, offering forgiveness and life through His resurrection.
There’s no better place to wrestle with those questions than in a community that loves Jesus and takes Him seriously. I’ve seen it firm up people’s faith and unfortunately, I’ve seen people abandon their faith for the pleasures of this world.
The city refines you through its challenges. No matter how great you thought you were, the city will humble you, break you down, but then allow you to be built back up. It’s a strange and beautiful thing to live here. We’re so thankful for the opportunity to be a family in the city.
5-1 hopefully coming Friday…