Contextual Healing by Ryan Behring

“We shape our cities; thereafter they shape us.” – Winston Churchill

Have you ever uttered the phrase “I was made for this!”? Sometimes we use it casually, sometimes euphorically. Whatever the case, you felt in your gut that that particular moment in time and space was especially predestined.

We learn a lot about ourselves as the settings and seasons of life change. Our context is a mirror, a window to ourselves - our strengths, our weaknesses, and to whom God made us to be. Changes in familial role (single, married, kids), career, where we live (urban, rural, international) help us to see our role in God’s ongoing work in the world.

A few years back I made a career change. After attending architecture school I’d worked for a few architects and reached an inflection point where I’d wanted to seek a more open-ended career path. Rather than a traditional path as a licensed architect, I wondered if there was a more embedded and subversive (possibly missional) path in which God could use what he’s given me.

I moved to Oak Cliff in 2014 and developed a love for a Dallas that I never knew. Proximity and rootedness had become important spiritual values to me in “seeking the welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7) of the city. As we seek to reflect Jesus, have you ever considered why He is often called Jesus of (a place) Nazareth?

In early 2015 an opportunity opened to serve and eventually lead an Americorps program through Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings’ office focused on community development and neighborhood organizing with Southern Dallas neighborhoods. My wife Stephanie, whose support often overwhelms me, encouraged me to go for it. I learned a lot over those two years about God and myself. Being closer to home it allowed me to embed myself and my work deeply in my own neighborhood and part of town. Dallas historically is a very divided city - economically, racially and generationally. Serving with Americorps, and the change in context, allowed me to experience being a minority (in several ways) and to learn and be led by others quite different from me; things I would not have experienced in my prior office setting.

Since finishing my Americorps assignment, context has continued to evolve for me. In the past 8 months I became a foster parent in Dallas County and began practicing commercial real estate within the same neighborhoods in which I served, working with entrepreneurs and investors to grow their communities. The experience continues to alter how I see my context.

The journey is rough and our context (“to whom we’ve been sent”) can evolve and change, but sometimes it is in those changes that we begin to see our role in God’s ongoing work in the world.