So you are going to build a city.
Dig its foundations deep. Pour the concrete. Design your buildings. It’s your city: Put in whatever you like—the Alhambra, the Hagia Sophia, the Sagrada Familia, the Parthenon. Throw in Notre Dame and Westminster Abbey.
It’s your city. Put in the Pre-Raphaelites, the Impressionists, Botticelli and Raphael. Have your floors inlaid marble from Florence. Have indoor fountains and reflecting pools where goldfish glide.
Throw in chandeliers and floor to ceiling windows. Let your city be full of light.
You are building your city on a hill. It cannot be hidden.
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You will, in moments of lesser faith, read blogs on how to hustle, how to promote your city, how to network, make connections, build a platform.
Oh builder of cities, beware. All these things steal time and focus away from learning the art and craft of city building.
Instead, seek God for the perfect blueprint for your city. Seek his inspiration for each tower and spire, each inlaid marble floor, each wall hung with Persian carpets, and each Tiffany lamp through which light glows.
Unless love runs through your city, and the desire to meet people’s needs for beauty, joy, peace, wisdom or rest, all the promotion and hustling you do will be futile. Nobody will long linger there, buy property there, and stroll through the boulevards under shady lime trees, hand in hand with their lovers.
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There is a kind of networking which is sheer joy—if you connect with people whose work you love, if you praise them honestly, interact with their work whole-heartedly, then you make friends, and this whole city-building business become more joyful.
However, flattering people for their attention; making connections for the good things these connections might bring you; befriending people to use them to promote your work—how can one ask God to bless such endeavours? Oh woman of God, flee these things.
There is a sort of hustling and self-promotion that is practical atheism. We act as if there is no God who can help people notice our city on a hill. We act as if God does not delight in good work and want people to enjoy it. We act as if God cannot even now give us twelve legions of those who will enjoy our work if we ask him. We forget the power of prayer.
And the worst thing about excessive self-promotion and connection-making? It devours the time and energy that should go into making your rare and beautiful city, set on a hill. So beautiful that at night, when the lights are switched on, and coloured fountains play, people cannot but look up and marvel; their feet itch, they yearn to walk up and explore.
And in spring, they will delight in walking through its gardens of cherry blossoms, and will sit under their shade, and look at the fields of daffodils, stretching as far as the eye can see.
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Besides, the connections which matter will arise organically. Other builders of cities on hills will notice yours, and ask you managed that 150 metre spire without visible support, and you will talk about flying buttresses. And you will ask them what pigments they used for those impossibly large stained glass windows which flood their cathedrals with rainbowed light, and they will tell you.
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God delights in your creativity. Build your city under his eye, as your worship to him, seeking his wisdom, in alignment with his stream of thoughts which outnumber the grains of sand on the seashore.
Let him smile, and say it is very good.
And as for the audience you’d love to have?
Remember, a city on a hill cannot be hidden. It glimmers during the day, and its light shines through the land at night.
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