Beautiful Underneath

My family has spent the last three years living and working in Allendale, South Carolina.  We moved back into the Greenville area last month, and have been excited to reconnect with this city and with Grace Church. But we have also had a lot of questions about what that looks like.

This move has meant a new job, a new community, and even a new campus for us. And that affects more than my wife and I, since our kids have to make new friends at Grace Church, and especially at the Downtown campus.

As a way to reconnect with our church and her friends, my daughter Hannah was excited to go on the 24Seven mission trip at the end of July. But she and I both had doubts and questions. Would her old friends engage her, or have they moved on to new friendships? Would she make new friends? What did she miss at Grace Church over the past three years that would have better prepared her for this trip? But after serving and worshiping on this mission trip with dozens of students her age, from all of Grace’s campuses, we now see that we had nothing to worry about.

Inviting, Nurturing, Partnering

Since we moved to Allendale in 2011, our family was not able to worship and be in community with Grace Church as much as we would have loved. But we are thankful for all the resources that are freely accessible to us– the weekend teaching, blog posts, and men’s and women’s ministry materials.

My wife took the initiative to lead Hannah through the Young Women’s Ezer material (which was generously provided by Grace Church staff) and I discussed the final session with her. Our daughter learned about how God created her in His image, and the capacity she has to invite, nurture, and partner. And she was cautioned about the dangers of being self-protective and self-promoting. The teaching was informative and helpful, but it’s hard to know how much sunk in with our daughter. If you are a parent of a middle schooler, you probably understand.

Tearing Down the Bridge

But as I followed up with one of her leaders on the mission trip, I saw how God was teaching her and drawing her into the community of Christ. The leader told me how she noticed that Hannah is quiet in groups, but that in the small group time one evening, she opened up and shared about her struggle with being self-protective. The language that my wife was teaching her, and which was taught to us by Grace Church, had sunk in! Even more, she was able to articulate and share her struggle with her new community.

“There is beauty and power in inviting, nurturing, and partnering. But to fully experience that beauty and power, the walls of self have to be torn down.”

A few days after her mission trip, Hannah and I went on a date, and we talked about this issue. Since Falls Park is only a half-mile away, we used the illustration of the bridge. We talked about how years ago, some people wanted to tear down the old Camperdown Bridge, to reveal the beautiful waterfall underneath. However, many others resisted, citing numerous inconveniences and expected problems. I explained to Hannah that change is hard, and being vulnerable is harder. It’s easier to keep things the same. But if the bridge was never torn down, we would have missed out on so much beauty that was hidden beneath it.

Likewise, my daughter would rather leave up her own “bridge.” She finds it easy to bottle up her feelings and weaknesses. But, as I explained, she has so much beauty underneath. There is beauty and power in inviting, nurturing, and partnering. But to fully experience that beauty and power, the walls of self have to be torn down. There is a risk to be in community, but the gospel promises that any risk and sacrifice on our part will be well worth it – for ourselves and for others.

Thankful for Community

We are excited for the opportunity we have to be a part of Grace Church’s downtown campus. But in a way, Grace has been with us all along during our adventure. Our church has supported our ministry in Allendale, provided the weekend teaching on-line, equipped us as parents, and raised up student ministry leaders who helped my daughter grow on a mission trip.

We are thankful for such a generous church. And we are thankful for a church that is helping us to expose the beauty that God has created in each of us.

– Joey Espinosa, Downtown Campus