Saturday, March 17, 2007

Saying "no" to N.O.

The Carlson family is the Linhart family's best friend. They are the type of friends who feel more like family. The ones we want to involve in every major and minor event in our lives. Chad and Geary have been best friends since college. Cindy and I share so many common interests and personality traits. Noah and Andrew, only three months apart, have a special bond, more like brothers or cousins than friends. And Nicholas...Nicholas is the baby of my heart. He was born just after my second miscarriage and whenever we visited the Carlsons, I was always eager to hold and feed him. I don't know if Chad and Cindy sensed this, but they always let me have plenty of Nicholas time, allowing his soft babyness and innocence to fill my empty arms and soothe my raging soul. Now he is a two year old unstoppable bundle of energy--but I still can't resist asking him for a cuddle because in some ways I feel like he belongs to me. All of the Carlsons belong to us.

Then there are the Brantleys. Mike mentored Geary throughout college and guided him through one of the biggest spiritual issues of his life. He was also one of the pastors who married us. Susanne is such a wise woman and I would love to be mentored by her. Their kids, Logan and Jordan are incredibly smart, endearing, and spiritually sensitive. Just the type of kids I hope my own sons will grow to be like.

When the Brantleys and the Carlsons decided to join in ministry together in New Orleans, Geary and I seriously considered following them. What an awesome and amazing community we could form together. Three families on the same path, with the same goals, in the same neighborhood. I envisioned barbecues, and neighborhood walks, our kids feeling at home in each others houses. I dreamed about making friends with our New Orleans neighbors, and developing relationships with bank tellers and green grocers. I had been wanting this kind of community for years. Still do.

The months of September through November were intense as we prayed and talked about what N.O. would be like. We calculated moving costs, looked at housing prices online, and Mike even helped Geary set up a meeting with a principal in N.O. We planned to visit the Brantleys (already in N.O.) in December.

But...something wasn't right. As we started to share about this N.O. idea, people naturally asked, "Why?" I kept hearing myself say, "It really has nothing to do with the city; I just want that type of community." Of course the response was, "Can't you have that here?" I would nod and mumble about God's leading and direction. But if am honest with myself, I must say that it had everything to do with the Carlsons going. I didn't want lose our family's cruise directors, the ones who could fix stuff, and the people who made our lives in Seattle feel safe. The Carlsons are a family of leaders, and instead of trying emulate them, I had been content to sit back and let them pave the way for our future. It was all wrong.

In addition, I realized that we didn't love New Orleans and in that war zone they don't need people like us. You see, where the Carlsons and the Brantleys were growing in love and compassion for city, Geary and I only had pity. And waning pity at that. Our focus on going there was purely self serving--to stay attached to our friends and to benefit from the community that they would build for us.

Soon after I saw my own sin in pursuing N.O., Geary and Chad had some conversations about friendship. Chad lovingly confronted Geary on his lack of pursuit. He said, "If you come to N.O. that has to change." Geary realized that he has always depended on friends like Mike and Chad to make friends for him. When other men pursued Geary for friendship he let them drop because he felt like he always had his two buddies in his pocket--he didn't need more relationships. And we realized that it would be the same in N.O. Mike and Chad would make the friends. Geary would benefit, but not grow. Chad pointed out, "It seems that the greater growth would be for you to go to Portland*."

The greater growth. We had been so caught up in the physical adventure of moving across the country and staying connected to our friends, that we never considered the spiritual adventure of letting go of the friends who made us feel safe, and venturing out to join a community on our own. What would happen if we cut the apron strings to the Carlsons. What would it do for our marriage, for our family, and for our relationships with God if we only had each other to depend on? What would happen if there was no Chad to make friends for us? No Cindy to plan the play dates and bring the snacks that I frequently forgot? We would have to grow up. We would have to mature and become adults and Christians who pursue real community instead of letting others pursue it for us. We would have to experience the greater growth.

And just like that, we knew. It was an amazingly peaceful decision and once it was made, we could clearly see how N.O. would be a bad fit for our family and vice versa. We cancelled our planned visit for December and fumbled through trying to explain the reason to the Brantleys. Mike said, "I don't understand because I wasn't there, but I believe you." So the apron strings were cut. We would not join our friends' adventures in New Orleans.

The Carlson family is the Linhart family's best friend. But they don't belong to us. They belong to God, who is leading them on a fantastic and exciting journey to a city that they already love--New Orleans. We will be so sad when they leave, and we will miss them immensely. But the Linhart family will have its own adventure. We will experience the greater growth. In fact, it's already started--the moment we said, "No" to N.O.

*Pretty soon we'll get to start saying "Yes" to the real home where God is leading us...a place where we still get to have barbecues and neighborhood walks and relationships with bank tellers. That story is still being written and will have to wait for a future blog post. Stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. Wow -- that is some deep processing. Sounds like much is afoot -- we'll be looking forward to hearing more about Portland though!


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