Salt Lake City has been home for a little over a month now, and yes, it already feels strangely like home. As someone who often reflects on life, enjoys moments of nostalgia, and does not handle change well, the transition to Salt Lake is something I think about daily. After a tough first week alone in the city before the other Fellows arrived, I have since settled into a weekly routine with work, found encouragement through the other Fellows and church community, signed up for a rec kickball league (yes, you read that correctly), and planned something to do outside nearly every weekend. These combined aspects of everyday life have certainly made the transition easier, but have not necessarily solidified Salt Lake as “home.” In fact, what I have described is busyness—the everyday distractions, commitments, and (many times good) necessities of life we often confide in to keep us from confronting the discomfort we may be feeling, or struggles we are facing. Therefore, what I have learned thus far in my short time here is that busyness makes transitions easier, but cannot provide a reliable foundation for new beginnings. What has made Salt Lake home is that the Lord has met me here and made His presence overwhelmingly known in the mountains, valleys, and canyons of Utah.
Our first Fellows retreat was a backpacking trip in the Uinta mountains. It was an incredible experience filled with struggle, laughter, meaningful conversations, discovery, and the first bonds of a budding community. Being outside was refreshing, and the time with new friends was life-giving. As a part of the retreat, we spent several hours in solitude—time alone in the woods with God. I am a book-lover, so, naturally, I brought along a book I have been itching to crack open entitled The Way of the Heart: Connecting with God Through Prayer, Wisdom, and Silence by Henri Nouwen.
Before the retreat, my mind was spinning. I was very unsettled and unsure if I could make it out here for 10 months. Coming off an incredible college experience and a summer full of joy, suddenly picking up and moving nearly 2,000 miles away from my family and friends was less than ideal for this reflective, comfort-seeking individual. All I could think about was the familiarity and fond memories I was leaving behind as I stepped into the unknown and the discomfort. In my mind, God was there, 2,000 miles away, and I was on my own out here. In fact, I was already starting to use work and the busyness of life in Salt Lake as a distraction from this feeling of loneliness. But as I sat on a rock in the high Uinta wilderness surrounded by wildflowers and trees, next to a bubbling stream, facing a peak majestically standing 13,000 feet tall, my mind was forced to settle. I quickly realized God was here. As I opened my book and read a few pages, I was challenged by two quotes in the first chapter appropriately titled “Solitude”:
“Solitude is the place of the great struggle and the great encounter—the struggle against the compulsions of the false self, and the encounter with the loving God who offers himself as the substance of the new self.”
“Solitude is thus the place of purification and transformation, the place of great struggle and the great encounter. Solitude is not simply a means to an end. Solitude is its own end. It is the place where Christ remodels us in his own image and frees us from the victimizing compulsions of the world. Solitude is the place of our salvation.”
I looked up at the daunting peak and smiled. Here I was, alone in the middle of the woods without my phone, with no one around me, but I was certainly not alone. I was experiencing what Nouwen calls “the great encounter.” My mind was being purified and transformed. Solitude dissolved the distractions riddled with falsehoods and filled me with the love of God. Here, in the middle of the woods, I was home. I was home because Christ was with me. In that moment, solitude was certainly the place of my salvation. It saved me from the “compulsions of the false self” and lies of the unsettled mind. Greater than that, though, solitude forced me to understand only He is sufficient. Only Christ can provide the way to salvation in the grand scheme of eternal life and during the little moments of each day. In this little moment, I caught a glimpse of the grand scheme. I caught a glimpse of home. This is the glimpse solitude revealed and the glimpse I needed.
I have heard many times that home is where the people are—those who mean most to you in life. There is certainly a lot of truth to that statement, as I definitely feel most comfortable around those who love me most and know me best. But is home where we are most comfortable? If that is the case, Salt Lake City has no business feeling like home at this point. Even more, home is where the Lord is—the sovereign Creator, loving Father, and abundant Provider. Because home is where the Lord is, we can go anywhere and be found, feel known. We can go anywhere and He is with us. We can go anywhere and have deep purpose. Therefore, I have transitioned to home here in Salt Lake because God has overwhelmingly met me here. Looking back, I can say the same about my college experience and summer in between. The busyness of life is no longer a big distraction—it is rather a mission with purpose. That being said, I would have never taken the time to meet the Lord if it were not for solitude and rest. I am already thankful and very much looking forward to this year of solitude, rest, and discovery. There will still be highs and lows, good days and bad days, struggles and joys. Nevertheless, I am thankful for a God who gives us an identity, infinite value, overwhelming worth, and meets us wherever we are. As someone who would live in a single moment forever if change wasn’t inevitable, I am grateful Home is with me always.
Salt Lake Fellows Collaborative