When I chose to move to Nashville, I said it was "to chase down community". A year later, I'm still chasing it. From a young age, my closest friends lived far from me. I grew up attending a Christian school, but most of the time my morals, standards, and choices were very different than those of my classmates. (I'm pretty sure the fact I received the "Best Christian Witness" award every year says more about the student body as a whole than it does of me.)
So when I went on my first mission trip at 15, teaming up with teenagers from across the country to serve in Nicaragua for a month, I was blown away to discover others my age who strived to live with conviction and character. For the first time, I was surrounded by people who were passionate about following God, serving others, and pursuing a purpose greater than ourselves. I had found my tribe.
This was long before email and cell phones were commonplace, so we kept in touch by writing letters. We exchanged novel-length scribblings, sharing the mundane and the significant, and we did whatever we could to keep our friendship close despite the miles between us. We sent care packages, we made long-distance phone calls, we planned reunions.
Every summer, my next mission trip only further increased my amazing friendships all around the nation. There's something about the mission trip environment that fosters closeness quickly. We shared intense circumstances in close quarters in a short amount of time, and the friendships that were produced have spanned decades.
Then I moved to Africa at 19, again keeping in touch long-distance with those I was closest to. So in this new season of my life, having returned Stateside and, in every way possible, starting over, I knew I wanted to be somewhere I could be physically surrounded by friends. So I came to Nashville. To chase down community.
It's been beautifully rewarding in so many ways, but it's also been hard.
Community doesn't just happen. Friendships don't just forge (even when there's an immediate connection). It takes effort. It takes intentionality. It takes time, and heart, and risk, and trust. It takes chasing.
And sometimes, to be honest, I grow weary of the chase. At times it feels like an uphill climb — a fight, a struggle — to find where I belong. To discover where I fit. To figure out how to meld my life into a church and friendship community that existed long before I showed up. To integrate into already busy lives and full schedules. To feel part of a tribe again.
Even coming to a place where I already knew people (to some degree), it's still been just plain hard. And while at times my heart has felt disappointed or sad, ultimately I know it's okay. That the struggle is part of the process. I know friendships aren't just bippity-boppity-boo'd into existence. I know the investment — of time, of heart, of the chase — is so worth it.
And so I'll keep chasing, whatever that may look like on any given day. And I'll keep choosing to trust, no matter how hard it gets. The journey, even when long or difficult or unclear, is what matters most.
What's been your own experience with chasing down community?