Thank you, Nashville

When we set sail for Nashville (a poor analogy for a landlocked move) three-and-a-half years ago, I was mostly excited for the to-do list. Sure, we had friends on the ground, but after years of living in a small post-industrial town 20-plus miles north of Indianapolis, I was ready to live in the center of some action. Date nights at award-winning restaurants. Concerts every night of the week. We quickly purchased memberships at the Belcourt (arthouse theater), Frist (museum) and Cheekwood (botanical gardens).

After years of community development and pastoral ministry with minimal resources, it was time to sit back and enjoy ourselves. For the first time since we’d been married, my wife and I could actually savor a weekend. We both worked from home, which meant we could set our own schedule. Given that my work is mostly music/entertainment journalism, I even got into most events for free. It was a perfect scenario.

Fast-forward to our exit and Nashville’s thriving social scene is the last thing I’m going to miss. I mean, I’ve certainly taken advantage of living in Music City (seriously: Sigur Ros, The Killers, The National, Sufjan, Dawes, Alt-J, Andrew Bird, Stevie Wonder, Nickel Creek, Bruce Springsteen and 100 more), but the lights have dimmed on those experiences. Instead, this week has served as a tearful reminder of what I’ll miss most: the community we leave behind.

For the last few days, my wife and I have been saying goodbye to those who’ve stood beside us during some of the most trying times of our lives. I never realized that shedding the skin of ministry would allow for so much of my own needs to surface, yet in Nashville I found close friends who wanted to help make sense of my own past and present. It turns out they needed the same. Our marriage needed time to heal from years of living in community and/or allowing too many people to be too close for too long. In Nashville, we found friends to help us define those boundaries and realize healing together.

It’s in Nashville that we were presented with the ultimate surprise of all: a son, Elliot, now two-years-old, who is a source of endless laughter and joy. Yet in those early days, weeks and even months when we were more shellshocked and tired than enamored with the addition, we were surrounded by friends who offered us advice, meals, relief and hope. It’s in Nashville that I learned to face my greatest wounds and weaknesses, a task I would have never taken on without knowing there were close friends in the trenches beside me.

This morning, at a weekly gathering formally known as Dude Breakfast, I said goodbye to some of the finest men I’ve ever known. Last night, I had the same experience with a small group of guys who’ve gathered every other Thursday at the Tap Room to share the stuff of life. Tonight we’ll say goodbye to some couples who’ve been meaningful friends to us ever since we’ve arrived. It’s a week-long parade of final get-togethers over coffee or beer, lunch or dinner, one-on-one or larger group.

To those who’ve shared in our Nashville experience these last three-plus years, I want to say thank you. You’ve healed us — me especially — in ways you could not know.