On March 9, 2015, I concluded a 9-month road trip around the continent with a relocation from southern California to Charlotte, North Carolina. “Why Charlotte?” many people asked, including several Charlotte residents.
“It wasn’t my favorite city,” I told plenty. If I wanted to start over in a “favorite city,” I’d be donning a year-round beanie in Seattle or consuming never-ending flows of beer and bratwurst in Milwaukee.
As for Charlotte, it was the people. The church. The house. The close proximity to parents, siblings, and other friends scattered across the South and East Coast at large. Charlotte wasn’t necessarily the most exciting decision, but it was certainly the most logical.
Nearly 365 days since making my big move, I’ve not regretted it — though I’ve often fantasized about other lives I could have lived.
However, had you told me 365 days ago that I would be packing up and leaving the Queen City within the year, I would have had some serious doubts. I would have wondered if a mere year in Charlotte was even worth my trouble…and if I was worth the trouble for Charlotte.
Whenever I get around to releasing my #RunningToBook, you’ll understand more of my fulfillment on the road to my utter discontent after the road. Those first few months in Charlotte were among the most grueling, disheartening of my life.
But Charlotte was honestly as good a place as any for me to wrestle through my restlessness.
My aforementioned proximity to loved ones enabled me to take numerous road trips over the last year. I went home to northeast Georgia often, and I rediscovered the beauty of the people there with a 10-year high school reunion and a breathtaking new job in the mountains. My trips home to the Peach State confirmed something Donald Miller promised me all those years ago: that I could always return home after leaving, and that I would change in all the right ways.
Beyond my personal redemption of home, Charlotte blessed me with another sort of home in Renovatus Church. I never had to “church shop” upon moving to Charlotte, because Renovatus was already there for me. I visited the church while passing through Charlotte on Day 232 of my road trip, and I knew there was something special about the place long before I committed to moving there.
The service was a combination of the ancient and the modern, of Spirit-led worship and sacred ritual. The church was a safe place for “liars, dreamers, and misfits,” and it tugged at my imaginative heart as Day 232 turned to 233 down to South Carolina and beyond.
Upon moving here, I was grateful for a place within a place, a people, a tribe who welcomed me into their world without my having to look.
I only regret that I didn’t welcome more of them into my own world in the last year.
It’s been tough. The vast majority of these last 365 days, I have felt supremely lost. Tossed to and fro in the waves of an epic journey-no-more. Did my boat crash here or did I jump overboard?
I haven’t known how to fully express myself in the last year, not with my long established friends and family and certainly not with this new batch of characters in Charlotte. It’s been treacherous translating into words this sinking feeling of purposelessness.
And so, I can’t express how perfectly the timing was for an inspiring new job in a pivotal city of old. I’m excited for my next chapter in Asheville, and I’m certain I’ll have more stories to tell from the Blue Ridge before long.
Let’s hope I can rediscover a more regular blogging rhythm in the chapter ahead, too.
I’m thrilled for Asheville, but I’m also terrified. Mainly for all the reasons I chose Charlotte and Renovatus. How will I find another church and people quite like it?
One of my greatest takeaways from Renovatus was a renewed appreciation for communion. Each week, we’d recite an invitation and file from the pews to approach two people distributing the elements, looking you right in the eyes to tell you
this is Christ’s body broken for you
this is Christ’s blood shed for you
and the whole thing has felt less religious and more relational, like it was supposed to feel back on a Thursday night in an upper room with a Guy and His twelve dearest friends.
This is the Table,
not of the Church,
but of the Lord.
It is made ready
for those who love Him
and for those who want to love Him more.
you who have much faith
and you who have little,
you who have been here often
and you who have not been here long,
you who have tried to follow
and you who have failed.
because it is the Lord who invites you.
It is His will that those who want Him
should meet Him here.
I’m incredibly sad to leave Renovatus; indeed, I felt I was not here long.
While my time in Charlotte didn’t last the “rest of my life” as the story line I’d envisioned upon moving here, I’m hopeful and even a little confident that my year in this city has produced and will continue to produce fruit for untold years to come.
I wrestled here.
I discovered new passions here.
I met some truly wonderful people here, and I hope those relationships can continue from just a couple hours away in the Blue Ridge.
I’m still struggling to learn the art of stability. But whether my new Asheville story line lasts the rest of my life or a single year or anything in between, I’m confident I could have not turned this page without Charlotte coming first.
Nothing is wasted in this life. Of this, I’m convinced; in this, I hope.
Thank you, Charlotte. Thanks for being there for me when I didn’t know how to be there for you. In some other universe, I know we’d have been perfect for each other. May I one day learn your secret.
Goodbye, Charlotte. I can’t wait to rejoin you at the Table soon.
Follow my play-by-play move to Asheville and more ridiculousness on Snapchat at thomasmarkz.