Four and a half years ago, Amy and I packed up our 560 square foot apartment in Abilene, threw all of our stuff in a HUGE U-Haul (I reserved the biggest truck they had because I remembered it saying “Best Deal” on the side of it), and headed off to Dallas. As we are getting ready to load another, smaller U-Haul (I went with the more reasonable 17 foot truck this time), I find myself reflecting back on our time here.
When I arrived in Dallas I had just turned 22, I had been married less than 8 months, and I was convinced that I knew it all. I had already been a youth pastor for a few years and graduated from college; what else did I really need? I saw seminary as a formality, a piece of paper that I had to grab and put in my back pocket so I could get where I needed to go. My goal was to get a job and become the guy in charge as soon as possible.
God is pretty clear with the way He feels about pride. Proverbs 11:2 says, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom,” and Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” In spite of this, God has been so patient and gracious toward me. He has continually placed people in my life who have mentored me and taught me so many things about service, family, and life. They have selflessly loved me despite my struggles and shortcomings.
One of my very first classes at Dallas Seminary was taught by a professor who had spent 18 years leading an underground seminary in communist Ethiopia. The class was on a Friday afternoon, it was my first semester so I didn’t know that no one took Friday afternoon classes, and there were only six of us in it. We sat around a table while our professor walked us through the curriculum with illustrations from his time in Ethiopia. A few weeks in I remember thinking, “maybe I don’t know everything.” This professor challenged me to look deeper into church planting, and God began to point us toward Austin and starting a new church.
Next, Amy and I met a couple through a small group that we were in. Even though I stood in front of the group and taught each week, I found myself being taught by them. They continue to remain close friends to us long after we left that church and group. Knowing that they love us, care about us, and pray for us is a constant source of encouragement and strength for me.
About two and a half years ago, God brought another couple into our lives. Before we met them, I was pretty much ready to quit ministry. My plan of grabbing a seminary degree and become the guy in charge hadn’t worked out and I had gone as far as my own strength would take me. This couple intentionally mentored Amy and me each week and taught us the truth about the freedom and life found in Jesus. Not only did they teach us about it, they modeled it for us in their jobs, their marriage, their parenting, and every other area of their lives. They taught us that Jesus not only promised us heaven someday in the future, he was offering life to us today.
I was working a miserably hot youth camp in Florida when I met another one of these friends. Over the next few years we played basketball, went to see movies, ate way too much food, and walked through the ups and downs of life with each other. We have become brothers and I am so thankful.
I met another of my closest friends at Smashburger after being set up on a professional blind date of sorts. I was about to begin working at the church where he had recently joined the staff and a coworker thought we would benefit from getting to know each other. Little did I know that over the next two years we would spend a portion of almost every day in his office or mine talking about life, God, family, and injuring ourselves while trying to stand up from a cross-legged position.
I was in the middle of an argument at a breakfast meeting when I met the next person God placed on my path. He had the pleasure of observing half an hour of petty bickering before we were actually introduced to each other. When we had lunch a few months later, he shared that his first impression of me was less than stellar. In spite of that, he agreed to spend the next year and a half walking me through the nuts and bolts of starting a new church. After weekly 6 a.m. meetings, of which I spent the first thirty minutes drinking coffee without speaking, he has become a great friend.
These have been an eventful few years. Since January of 2011, Amy and I have both started and finished grad school, worked various jobs, and become parents. There is so much that we’ll miss about Dallas, but there is no doubt that we will miss the relationships most of all. I could easily fill an entire post with just the names of people who have touched our lives over the last four and a half years.
I can honestly say that, without God working through the men and women mentioned above, as well as so many others, Amy and I would not be ready to move back to Austin and start Restore. Thank you so much to everyone who has cared about us and shown us kindness here. We will look back on our time in Dallas with gratitude.