Eight years ago, I moved to Wake Forest, North Carolina. At the time, I truly believed this represented a permanent change in my life. I thought that I had said good bye to the Commonwealth of Virginia for good, except for holidays and family events. Turns out I was wrong.
Eight years ago, I moved to Wake Forest to pursue a masters degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. I thought that I was there to get a degree and enter a career in religious education or some sort of ministry field. I thought I would study for three years or so and then come away more mature in my walk with Christ. Turns out I was wrong.
Eight years ago, I reconnected with old friends from the church my family had attended during my college years. I had once been in the youth group with Nicole’s younger brother. At the time, Nicole had recently given birth to her fifth child. I’d forgotten that they were in the Raleigh area and had no idea they were only a few miles down the road from where I was living. Nicole insisted that I visit their church, and I did. I expected to see their family only occasionally, at most on Sundays if I decided I liked their church. Turns out I was wrong.
Throughout my time in Wake Forest, Nicole welcomed me into her home and included me as a part of her family more often than not. She became like a sister to me and her five children became the closest thing to nieces and nephews that I have yet to experience.
Throughout my time in Wake Forest, I slowly discovered that seminary was not the right place for me. After only three semesters, I withdrew from the school. After a great deal of thought and prayer, I came to realize that my move to North Carolina and my desire to attend seminary was done in response to my grief over the death of my father. Out of necessity, my part-time teller position became a full-time job. This only served to make me more and more miserable over the course of several years.
Throughout my time in Wake Forest, my heart broke as I witnessed my friend’s family fall apart. I watched, helplessly, as the leaders of her church, and her own husband, made it their mission to destroy her reputation and crush her spirit. For a long time, I allowed these events to keep me away from church. Not because I stopped believing in the love of God, but because the church is made up of people, and people are just the worst.
Thankfully, the story doesn’t end there.
Four years ago, I moved back to Roanoke, Virginia, my hometown. I moved back, despite my insistence that I would never move back. I moved back, despite my seeming inability to properly deal with my dad’s death.
Four years ago, I moved back to Virginia because I hated my life in North Carolina. I loved Nicole and her children dearly, but I hated being unable to help them as their world fell apart. I hated watching that world fall apart. I loved my apartment and the independence I felt in living alone, but I hated my place in the life I was leading. I loved the beauty that came with being in the Raleigh area, but I hated the job I performed every single day.
Four years ago, I knew that I would miss the few things I loved about North Carolina. I knew I would visit from time to time, because once I had those kids in my life, there was no way I could get by for long without them.
These days, whenever I visit, I’m usually asked when I’m moving back. I like to kick around the idea that the possibility is always there. But the real answer is, more likely, never. My life is different now. I’m not the bitter bank teller that you so often read about on this blog. I have a job that I love. I have a church family that I love. I have a position in life that finally feels like it’s the right place to be. Like it’s where I’m supposed to be.
In North Carolina, Nicole’s spirit wasn’t crushed and she has rebuilt her family with a faith in God that rivals that of even the most well-known Biblical heroes. She has a new husband who loves her and treats her the way she deserves to be treated. Her five kids are growing into amazing young men and women. Also, they’re all (except for the youngest) way taller than me. I can’t deal with that.
In North Carolina, the banking world has carried on without missing a step. They didn’t need me back then and they don’t need me now. Because I was a bitter person who hated everyone I came into contact with at that stupid drive through window. If I moved back there, what would I do to make money? I certainly couldn’t get back into banking.
In North Carolina (and this is the real reason I won’t move back), the drivers are terrible. I really despise being on the road with people in North Carolina. My time there has made me a more aggressive driver in Virginia, so I’m sure there are people who hate being on the road with me. But I’m tame compared to the majority of North Carolinians. Caroliners? Carolers? North Carolers.
Some could look at my time in North Carolina and call it a waste of four years. I don’t. I spent three semesters in seminary and dropped out without earning a degree. Just because I went there for the wrong reasons doesn’t mean God couldn’t use it. Just because I look back on much of my time there as an unhappy time, doesn’t mean God didn’t use it. It also doesn’t mean that there weren’t happy times, as well. Would I go back and visit every few months if all it represented was misery in my life? I learned a lot in my time in North Carolina and I’ve learned a lot about my time there since returning to Virginia. And I thank God for it.