I am a son of Exeter. I was raised in Exeter. I went to Lincoln and Wilson. I graduated from EUHS, and returned to Exeter with my wife and two kids after college and my first career. I work in Exeter, serve in Exeter, talk well of Exeter, and try to spend my money in Exeter. I want to see Exeter thriving in every aspect of her being-- thriving families, thriving churches, thriving businesses, thriving schools, thriving government agencies, thriving media, and thriving arts. I. Love. Exeter.
But, there's something about growing up in a small town. It never felt like there was anything to do. No movie theatre. No arcade. No mall. No baseball card shop. Just. Orange. Trees.
My senior year of high school I was itching to leave. My small town represented everything I wanted to get away from and the big-city lights of Riverside were calling my name. Everyone in my class wanted to leave. Those that stuck around for COS talked like it was a bacteria they were recovering from and would only have to endure until the penicillin kicked in.
But, I've noticed two things since those days.
1. There are countless great things about living in a small town.
2. There is a glass ceiling over most small towns.
I conducted a highly advanced research initiative amongst my friends and their friends on Facebook. I asked two questions.
• What are the BEST things about living in a small town?
• What are the WORST things about living in a small town?
I wasn't surprised by the positive answers. BEST: Being known. Strong relationships. Friendliness. Good for raising your kids. Care amongst the community. Only two stop lights. Community spirit. You can make a big impact. Traditions. Watching the generations of families grow up around you.
I wasn't surprised by the negative answers either. WORST: Gossip (most votes). Too conservative. Limited dating options. You can't wear your sweats/pajamas to the local grocery store without running into someone you know. Need to hide your faults. Your family name defines you for good or bad. Entitlement mind-set. You always feel like an outsider (unless you are an insider) (second to gossip). Shallow relationships. Lack of consumer options. Lack of culture. Lack of diversity. Lack ofentrepreneurial-minded people. Lack of opportunity. Lack of resources. Starved economy because people spend their money in the big city next door. Horrible internet (third).
Can you read between the lines?
The glass ceiling is named poverty.
Poverty isn't about an economic deficiency, though it can be that. Poverty is about accepting meager possibility. Poverty is accepting a limit and being governed by lack. Why can we ship oranges to the nations and still live governed by the question, "Can anything good come out of Exeter? Farmersville? Lindsay? Woodlake? Lemon Cove?"
Jesus is a small town boy. He grew up in a small town called Nazareth that probably had a population of 300-500 people and covered a vast 60 acres. When Nathanael first heard that Jesus was the son of Joseph from Nazareth he said, "Nazareth! Can anything good come from Nazareth?" (Jn 1:46). Of course there can, Nathanael! Jesus proves it. Glorious things come from small towns.
It's time to break the glass ceiling. You. Were. Made. For. Glory.