For the second straight Wednesday, it’s WANDERING Wednesday. Only instead of my usual vagabond self, I’m honored to host another lovely wanderer to my blog. Laura Coulter has become one of my best blogging buds, and she even cameo’d toward the end of Struggle Central (of which she also wrote a humbling review).
Check out Laura’s most recent wandering to my old home state of Georgia. If you’d like to feature a guest post on my blog, check out this info-tastic page and shoot me an email! I’d love to have you wander with me.
When I think of wandering, I usually think of open fields or wooded paths. But my most recent bout of wandering is taking place in a much different setting — one of side-by-side buildings and bumper-to-bumper traffic.
I wouldn’t call myself a country girl. I grew up in a decent-sized college town twenty minutes from the second largest city in my state, and I’ve spent stints in both Fort Wayne, Indiana (not huge, but still a city), and Cincinnati, Ohio. But when I moved to Atlanta in August, it was completely different—it’s the most urban place I’ve ever lived.
In the Christian community I’m part of, we like to define “urban” as density and diversity. And I’ve found that’s what I’m really adjusting to in Atlanta.
To be honest, the density is sometimes suffocating. There are days when I just want to drive until I hit wide country roads winding through farmland, away from angry, honking drivers on narrow multi-lane roads and the constant stream of joggers. As an introvert, I have to find creative ways to give myself the space I need to recharge in order to be with the people that are everywhere around me.
But as I go about my life here, the density allows so many more opportunities to bump into cool people, kind people, interesting people, needy people. As I wander through the density of the city, I find life, community, and collaboration. All are things I need to be who Jesus calls me to be. But it takes courage to step out and embrace them, especially when I’d rather just put in my headphones and pretend I’m all alone. It takes sacrifice to be someone who adds constructively to the life, community, and collaboration of the city. To make an impact, you have to give.
Then there’s the diversity. It’s both beautiful and humbling. I’ve never before noticed how many white people are in all of my Facebook photos. It wasn’t an intentional thing — that’s just the makeup of where I lived and went to school. But it shows me how much I’ve been missing out on. There’s something glorious about living among — and especially worshiping God with — people from so many vastly different backgrounds. I think it gives a better glimpse of what eternity will look like.
And it’s not just diversity of race, but of worldviews, cultural environments, and socioeconomic classes, too. When all those differences collide, there’s likely to be tension, but there’s also the potential for the collaboration I talked about earlier to be so much more awesome.
Communication is key, I’ve discovered. You can’t make assumptions or take it for granted that everyone shares your thought process. You have to explore the nuances of one another’s stories and figure out what makes each other tick. From there, you get to build new stories together, with greater knowledge, perspective, and creativity than you ever would with someone who thinks and acts just like you.
Wandering through the density and diversity of the city can be scary, but it’s so worth it. I [try to] remember that every time I high-five one of the kids on my soccer team, walk into the bakery next door to the church where I work and greet the cashier, or have a conversation with the elderly man who walks around my apartment complex.
Density and diversity bring opportunity—to share Jesus’ love and truth with the many and multifaceted people not far from me. Even though I get discouraged and overwhelmed at times, wandering through the city is proving more motivating, inspiring, and worship-inducing than treks through open fields or along wooded paths. And that’s a big confession for someone who loves nature as much as I do.
But I’m starting to really understand what Tim Keller meant when he said, “Cities, quite literally, have more of the image of God per square inch than any other place on earth.”
The more I wander through the density and diversity of the city, the more of God I see in the people who make it dense and diverse.
Laura Coulter is a writer, currently serving at Blueprint Church in Atlanta, Georgia. She is a graduate of Taylor University and a native of the Kentucky Bluegrass. Her writing has appeared on popular websites such as Stuff Christians Like and RELEVANT. Check out her blog, Laura Coulter writes, and follow her on Twitter @coulterlaura. She’s a fan of University of Kentucky basketball, Chai tea lattes, and ultimate Frisbee.