There is a heartbeat of any place where people congregate. It’s an internal rhythm that can not only be felt, but can be see in the movement of its cars and people; slower in rural areas, faster and more energetic in cities. I know this isn’t a new concept but I was reminded of it as I sat in an office on the 16th street mall in Denver looking down on those ant-like skitterings of humans and vehicles making their way through their busy – or not so busy – day.
The never-ending buzz of activity I could see from above took me back to my younger years when I worked downtown and experiences this energy for the first time but the energy had changed. Back then, the city had a freshness; a newness that reminded me that I was starting my life fresh. All of the hopes and dreams in my mind were yet to be either realized or shattered and I felt that in the mirrored-finish of the skyscrapers that surrounded me as well as the brand new pedestrian mall that ran through the center of the city.
The beat of Denver is different now than it was then. The state-of-the-art shopping complex was once the center of that pedestrian mall now houses offices (like the one I was sitting in ), a university and pizza joint. What was once a vibrant working and shopping community has more reminders of the homelessness that is so pervasive in our country and the dichotomy of rich and poor seems less stark as the oil and gas industry has recently taken a hit and other successful businesses in town are working harder and leaner to get to the same place they were back then.
In a way it saddens me. I love my city and I love the memories of those “hay days” from the 80’s, but Denver, like many cities, has gone through some pretty significant growing pains as it has tried to overcome its “cow-town”reputation. While the sidewalks don’t roll up at 10pm on week-nights anymore, Denver hasn’t quite found its way to becoming the great metropolitan center of the Southwest.
Don’t get me wrong. Denver, has a great deal to offer! But Denver, at least for me, will always have a sense of naivety that is more commonly found in smaller areas. I love that despite the growing pains it has suffered, Denver is working hard to overcome its past and present burdens and struggles. It is works to keep the sense of history that exists here while building something new that will be great now and in the future.
Funny. That’s just what we are doing as Christians and members of other faith communities, isn’t it?
Each of us has growing pains as we move into our faith. We all start out fresh and “shiny”, thinking we have it all figured out and are ready to take on the world with our big dreams and bigger imaginations but in the blink of an eye, the ground shifts beneath us and those dreams crack or maybe even break. We falter, our identity as Christians and as individuals and we are left standing there like empty storefronts on a forgotten city block – holding the space that was once our glory but now is just a shell, a reminder of our failure. We begin to wonder who we really are if we aren’t the person we imagined ourselves to be in our “glory days”.
The joy of being both human and a member of a faith community is just like the excitement of being in the middle of a city that is being revitalized. Like that city, we have the ability to recreate ourselves; to take what was once there and recreate it into something not just newer, but better. Who we were before only adds dimension to who will choose to be tomorrow. But just like those who are looking at the shattered windows and graffitied walls of the city, we have to make a choice to change and accept that the choice will take work.
The choice to change is a scary one. It takes risk, it takes strength, and it takes faith. I know this now more than I did before as I recently walked away from a job that was causing me physical and emotional distress. I had to choose to believe I was worth the risk, to believe that I had the strength to stand up and take the leap, and to have the faith that God will provide a way through.
Believe me, I didn’t take this step lightly or easily. I literally spent days sitting at my computer and crying, trying to figure out what I needed to do and being overwhelmed by the risks that were ahead.
In the end, though, I came to one very clear realization. I was, for lack of a better phrase, being called to step out in faith. To take a new journey of revitalization.
I could have declined, chosen the easier path of staying put, but for this, this was not an option. Not only would the stress kill me, but I would become a human representation of one of the ghost towns that litter that mountains of Colorado. I would become an empty shell of who I was created to be.
Instead I have chosen to do the hard work – to gut much of the structure of my current life and re-imagine what my life could be.
I have to admit that I am terrified.
What if I fail? What if I run our of money before my next job arrives? What if I completely misunderstood what God was telling me because it was what I wanted to hear?
Believe me, these thoughts plague my mind more frequently than I care to admit, but I am choosing to take a “city planner” view of my situation.
Like Denver, my life still has pretty good bones, as it were. I have good skills, a strong faith, and a good group of people around me that are helping me to look to the future rather than worry about the moment.
As I sat in the office in the 16th street office, I see myself in the cranes and construction sites around the city. I am like my beloved city. I will come out of this stronger, newer, and more in tune with who I am supposed to be rather than who someone else said I should be so many years ago.
What about you? Are you being revitalized like I am or have you already been through this process and can see the other side? Or maybe you chose to stay put and see that staying there has revitalized you in other ways. Whatever your story, I would love to hear it.
In the meantime, I’d better get back to building.