Real Life Exiles

Matt Coulombe   -  

Greetings, HDC! This month, I thought I would let you hear from one of our church members instead of me. Harrison Boatwright and his family have been a part of our Apple Valley campus for a few of years now. I actually had the privilege of baptizing him back in 2020, standing as a witness of his publicized faith in Jesus out on the Pointe Discovery patio during a pandemic-era baptism celebration. I have personally been encouraged in seeing his faith grow, as well as in watching him lead his wife and kids in the ways of the Lord. Recently, I invited him to share some of his story at our Exiles Response Service, and provide a personal take-away from our extended time in 1 Peter. Here is what he shared:

My name is Harrison, I was asked to share a little something about my life in hopes of illustrating what it can look like to suffer for doing good as we seek to follow Christ. First, a little context may help people understand why this would feel like suffering to me.

I was born in Altadena, CA. When I was about 2 years old my parents got divorced. Which, as some may know and have experienced, can cause a lot of the normal family dynamic to shift. Visits with my dad every weekend, with my mom during the week, or dropped off at my grandparent’s house when neither were available. Often left at home alone with my brother and sister. We were raised in the heart of Hollywood, walking distance to Hollywood Blvd, Canter’s Deli, and Melrose Blvd. I would wave at the Hollywood tour buses and pretend that I was part of the attraction. I had, and still do have, a very open and loving family. Nothing was really off the table. Most topics can usually be discussed with ease. I smoked my first pack of cigarettes when I was 10, and luckily, I never really got addicted. I only share this to provide some insight into the dynamics of my childhood. My mom was always there when she could be, working as a full-time waitress, which allowed her to have a flexible schedule so she didn’t miss the important events in our lives. On occasion we dressed in our Sunday best and went to St. Brendan’s Church just off Western and 3rd Street, but we went so infrequently that the priest had no idea who I or my family were.

Now, my sister was in a similar situation to me, going through similar trials with divorced parents and the like. Different from me though, she unknowingly fell into a very motherly role and definitely rose to the occasion. She would sign my field trip slips, yell at me when I came home after dark, help me pick out my clothes, decide on my hair style, while always maintaining the role of the cool older sister. Her approval meant everything to me. Even as we got older, her approval meant the world to me. She helped me get a job working at the film studios as a Production Assistant. Eventually, I found myself working as a Prop Master, leading my own department in making Super Bowl commercials and TV shows. This went on for about 12 years, and it drove our relationship even closer. We would lean on each other for help, bond over the long hours, and help each other source hard-to-find props that the client and agency requested last minute. My memories of that are bittersweet.

Sometime later after I met my wife, I would end up feeling God’s call and give my life to Christ. In the early days of my walk with Christ, I can recall saying my gospel ABC’s over and over. I would recite The Lord’s Prayer constantly because it was the only prayer I knew. I don’t even think I was baptized yet, but I was feeling renewed and on a redemptive path. I was excited and I felt like I had finally broken from chains of bondage. I told my whole family about Jesus and what I had been reading. The excitement was palpable, but I knew that I would receive some opposition. By this I mean that the ideology that Jesus presents is so different from what the worlds shows, reflects, and wants us to reflect. I remember reading the part in the Bible where Jesus says,

“Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two, and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:51-53)

Jesus’ teachings are so specific and other-worldly, and they will create opposition!

I wasn’t surprised by what was to follow. On a routine phone call, my sister clearly and very coldly told me she was embarrassed of who I was, and she was embarrassed that I was her brother. It was in that moment where the truth of Scripture was confirmed in my life.

This was a little over 5 years ago, and though we have reconciled, we talk often and laugh with each other. But things just aren’t the same in the family, and that’s okay. The family is still close, but things are different. I’m the weird Christian that attempts to make the family pray. And if I can’t wrangle up the confidence to get the whole table to pray, I’ll say a prayer with my wife and kids in a corner at family gatherings. I’m the exile, and I’m happy about that. It’s not always easy, and it can sometimes feel lonely, but it is comforting knowing that I am an exile with Christ. In John 15:20 Jesus says, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”

In all this, Christ has confirmed his presence in my life, showing me that he knows what I’m going through. That He is sovereign over my life, and working all things together for my good. At the end of the day, I am thankful for Christ’s work on the cross and I can rest in that.

Although we have come to the end of our study in 1 Peter, I know the truths contained within this important letter will continue to prompt, encourage, and challenge us in the days ahead. I hope that stories like Harrison’s can remind us of our greatest allegiance and highest priority: to humbly live under the loving authority of God’s mighty hand, trusting him through it all, no matter what may come. May it be our honor and joy!

“So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”   (1 Peter 4:19)