I never felt comfortable in my home town. It never quite felt like home. My skin would crawl when I had been there too long, and my heart seemed to ache for all the places I had never been… but never for home.

As a teenager, I was terrified of getting trapped in my small town. I thought small towns were for people with small dreams, small talent, and small wallets. I made sure that no one and nothing could tie me to the quiet mountains I was taking for granted.

I think I subconsciously maintained that attitude for years, but as visiting there becomes more of a rarity, my reasoning for getting out has changed. I realize now that Small Town, USA can’t provide the occupational opportunities that I’m both skilled at and passionate about. In fact, there are days that I wish it could, and I’m beginning to understand that there is nothing wrong with that place, and there’s nothing wrong with the people that live there.

I went to church with my mom this weekend. When I got there, my eyes immediately found the back of the head of the only boy who’s pull on my heart has ever been strong enough for me to even day-dream about a future together. My heart stopped beating in a way that was unexpected and completely new to me. I was knocked breathless, and in my search for oxygen, all I could see were these twenty-something married couples who were praising Jesus like they really believed in him and smiling like it had never occurred to them that they were settling… because they weren’t. I was astounded because I was jealous. I was angry at myself for my own choices, but also for my own judgement of these people.

The pastor began preaching on “how we can know the Bible is reliable.” As soon as I heard the subject, I kind of tuned out. Anyone that knows me knows I consider myself to be a spiritual person in relationship with Jesus, but I don’t find apologetics to be useful in matters of faith, because there is simply no way of convincing anyone that the giant book that contradicts itself in a few places and contradicts science in a bunch of other places (depending on your interpretation) is “reliable.” Not to mention the fact that Old Testament God and New Testament God seem like completely different beings. I’m not here to slam Christians and the Bible in general, but what I’m saying is, I have questions. I have doubts. And I’m sure the citizens of my home town do, too, but I’ve chosen a life in which I have to answer those tough questions because people are asking. I’ve chosen a career in which I have to justify my beliefs, because people are skeptical. I know it’s not easy anywhere in this world, and I guess I have a grass-is-greener mentality to a degree. I don’t have the privilege of, for the most part, being surrounded by like-minded people. I am more often surrounded by people who make me doubt than I am people who encourage my faith. And that doesn’t make me better or stronger, but it’s something I rarely dealt with at home. It’s different. Here I am, jealous again, because I can’t help but wonder if maybe I’d have more peace if I had stayed.

I wasn’t even to the car before the tears were dripping off my chin. I had left before I had the chance to attack that curly-headed boy with a marriage proposal. I think it would have gone something like this:

Hey, I know I exploded on you for treating me badly a few months ago, but I’ve been thinking, and I’d like to quit everything I’ve been working for my entire life and get married instead. To you. And you can work. And I can blog and take care of my dog– our dog. What’s mine is yours. Whaddya say? 

Because what if picking a mate for life isn’t settling so much as it is having someone promise to stick with you through the shit that is imminent?

What if staying in your small town isn’t settling so much as it embracing a peace that only comes from being surrounded by your tribe?

I’m not saying I’m gonna drop everything to go back home and give up on what I feel is my purpose. I rode that emotion out, and I still landed in 30308. I’m just saying that the people at home have a purpose, too, and maybe their path to fulfilling it has a different terrain than mine– with its unique advantages and disadvantages. It might be quiet and less crowded, but there’s an incline I don’t have to deal with while I wait behind a billion other cars whose drivers are flipping me off. That path leads to somewhere. God, forgive me for ever thinking it didn’t. Help me to trust that I’m on the right path, and please, let that path take a detour to the mountains every once in a while.

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