I’m two days removed from my first trip to Jackson, MS in over a year. That is significant because Jackson is the city that I was born and raised in. It is the city where several formative things happened in my life. It is the city that I have watched deteriorate from afar. I’ve read Facebook posts and heard complaints from others about how the city has gone downhill. I’ve heard about the murders and infrastructure deconstruction. So I haven’t wanted to visit. I’ve wanted to see my family, but not Jackson. I have to admit that part of this stems from one of our first visits home after we moved 10 years ago.

We were in a hair store looking around, and all of a sudden we heard gunshots outside of the store. This was followed by a man running into the store with a gun in his hand, saying that he had been shot. I was on one side of the store and my wife was on the other side. This bleeding man was inside of the store with his gun! And I was separated from my wife. It was one of the most frightening points in my life.

After that experience, my visits to Jackson was met with some kind of filter over my eyes. I could see all of the negative aspects. I saw the dilapidated housing. I saw the potholes in the street that were large enough to swallow cars in some instances. I saw gas stations become hangouts for unsavory things to happen. And maybe all of this had always happened, but I never noticed it until it affected me. Sad, huh? And so, I never wanted to visit. And after this last visit, I’m ashamed of myself.

In the days leading up to the visit, I had suffered from so much anxiety. I finally talked to my wife about my concerns, and we prayed about it. The morning that we left, I was feeling much better, but also had made up my mind that we would stay close to the house while we were there. After an exhausting 8 hour drive, we arrived at my parents’ house. That night we went to a once popular mall to grab dinner. We walked around it for a bit, and I saw a few people that I knew. The real breakthrough came on our next to last day in the city. We drove around and explored what had become of the city. What I saw stunned me.

I saw hope. I saw progress. I saw dilapidated buildings and houses that should be torn down. but I saw newness. I saw effort.

Hope.

And I wasn’t afraid anymore. I realized that I had totally enjoyed my visit home in every aspect for the first time ever. I wasn’t running back to Missouri. I was a little sad to have to leave and come back for work. Jackson is my home. Seeing with my own eyes what is and what could be has given me an excitement about my hometown. It even had my wife and I talking about what others things might help take Jackson to an even higher level.

God forced me to look at my own cowardice, but not as condemnation, but as a means to healing me of other’s opinions and allowing me to see a vision through fresh eyes. And no, this is not me saying that we are moving back home, but it does give me a way to pray for my home. That works just as well.

Be blessed everyone.

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