News and Tribune

January 24, 2013

MAY: A city on a hill

Local columnist

— When I was young, my uncle and aunt lived in Florida. On a couple of occasions, we would take a family vacation to the Sunshine State, leaving the flat cornfields of central Indiana behind. During the time before completed interstates, we would wind down back roads through Kentucky and Tennessee on the way to our beach destination. The highways would be peppered with road signs for local businesses — billboards, houses, barns, mailboxes, little hand-made posters stapled to a stick.

If you have traveled around in some 19 states, you have no doubt seen anything that could be painted along the way beckoning you — appealing to you — pleading for you to come “See Rock City.” My dad was an adventurer. One year he decided to obey the signs. We were going to See Rock City. All I remember about the drive is that it seemed to take as long to go up the road to Rock City as it did to get from Indianapolis to Chattanooga.

I am not sure exactly what I expected as an 8 year old, but it wasn’t what I thought it would be. I had seen maps. I thought there would be bold lines showing the state boundaries. Though I am sure I knew better, I would have been tickled if the states had actually been different colors. Expecting grandeur and excitement, I saw nothing but boring and mundane from the top of the mountain.

There are lots of mountains in life that we climb only to find that isn’t exactly what we expected. We take the raise and the promotion only to find more headaches and challenges. We divorce the spouse because we’ve found someone else that kindles our flame, only to find similar, if not worse, irritations. Sometimes we even abandon principles and truths that we’ve held dear for years, hoping against hope to find an easier, more appealing way. In the end, the new paths offer nothing better — often worse.

The city of your life is built on a hill. What are people expecting to see when they get there? Are you the old man who is always cantankerous, always edgy? Are you the lady who is never satisfied with anything, always finding fault? Are you the person who professes a faith but rarely displays it?

Jesus said to his followers, “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill” (Matthew 5:14, The Message). It’s on that rock that Jesus built his church.

The barns are painted. The signs are put up. You’re in the limelight. Built on a hill. We can only hope that people See Rock City.


— Tom May is the Minister of Discipleship at Eastside Christian Church in Jeffersonville and is an adjunct instructor in the communications department at Indiana University Southeast. He can be reached at