Growing up, consistency was not something I was familiar with. On average, I moved every two years of my life. I attended five different elementary schools, three different middle schools and two different high schools from Texas to Tennessee to Virginia to Florida. My life was ever-rapidly in motion as a kid. Now, much of this helped me become an outgoing human being. I’ve been given the opportunity to live in a trailer in the middle of nowhere Texarkana to a big brick home in a neighborhood called “Bentley Park” in Virginia. To say that my life has been lived along the spectrum feels like an understatement.
So it has been a very real pleasure to have lived on my own, because I have been able to attain the permanence I desired and, really, deeply needed. At twenty-three, moving to Chicago was scary, but only in the sense that I was about to really be on my own for the first time. (I didn’t go away to college, so I didn’t get that explosive sense of self-discovery during those formative years.) What made the move to Chicago easy was due to the fact that I already had a community of friends, and I can only attribute this to the faithfulness of God at Soul City Church.
Today marks my five year anniversary at Soul City Church. On June 26, 2011, I attended my first service. I had just moved to Illinois a few months earlier with my family, so I commuted in from the suburbs. I had heard about this little church from my church in Orlando, Florida. I remember walking into Soul City and feeling completely known. A girl named Amber walked up and introduced herself to me and told me they just opened their doors in November of 2010. They were all doing something new and I was new … and I finally felt at home.
It may all seem a little silly to celebrate such a thing, but again – permanence has never really played a role in my story. Five years later, to see that I have something with consistency of my own, feels liberating. These five years at Soul City have meant so many different things to me:
I have seen the structures of walls and rooms change completely. I have met all seven of my roommates there. I met my now husband while serving at the front doors of Soul City. I have served in different capacities throughout that space. I have seen people leave. I have seen myself question whether or not I wanted to leave. I have watched people give their lives over to the power of Christ through the beauty of baptism. I have prayed alongside very broken people. I have celebrated alongside these same people. I have led small groups and have been transformed in those very circles of women. I have sat down with my Pastor, Jeanne, and said it’s time for me to see a counselor. I have been in counseling for almost four years since that moment. I have had life spoken into me over and over again. I have learned the importance of vulnerability. Truly, I have been challenged and refined.
Being at Soul City Church these past five years has been utterly, fundamentally and significantly transformational in my walk with Jesus. It’s not a joke when they say they’re in the business of “Leading People Into A Transformational Relationship With Jesus.” I have also learned what it means to stick it through during moments where I felt at odds with what was happening. Certainly, if I’m honest, some of it comes with a territorial sense of pride. But other times there can be a sticky feeling of What To Do Now?
However, through the questionable moments, I chose a path that has ultimately led me into the depths of what belonging to a church means. I chose to reach out and meet with leaders and talk with friends, and then I prayed for an answer. (Spoiler alert: I stayed.) The Lord really revealed a lot of the motives of my own heart, showed me what He was doing in The West Loop specifically, and showed me that The Church (not just Soul City) is a body.
Lastly, no matter where I ended up, I’m fallible and human and, prone to finding negative before positive. It has always been easy for me to pack up and move on, but not this time.
Five years in, and I understand the importance of community, serving, intentionality, and loving fiercely and genuinely. The people who lead Soul City are just as fallible as me, but I could not imagine a more loving group of people to become transformed alongside.
Whatever Church you’re at, we are all one. Finding your own sense of permanence and community is so essential to the Church Body. A church, and the humans it holds, is certainly not perfect and should never claim to be. In the times you question, seek the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to direct your next steps, and be honest with safe people. But more than anything, celebrate where you’re at and know that God is using you and your story. Things and times are ever-changing, it’s up to us to choose how we respond in that.
For me, I want to say Happy Five Years, Soul City! It’s been the best and fastest journey with you all.