When I went to college six years ago I didn’t know anyone. I thought this was a pretty exciting idea at the time. I met a lot of people that first week, I was invited to some parties, I ate with my roommate in the cafeteria. But I really wanted some Christian friends.
Every night I visited different Christian organizations, hoping to find my place in this world (…or at least on campus.) Unfortunately, most of them creeped me out. At one of them they made us stand up every time we read from the Bible – the word “cult” came to mind. I think they also shut the door to the room we were in, which made me feel trapped, like I was their bait and they had just captured me. And then we played stupid games – they were so excited about these games and I could tell they were trying too hard to impress me.
At another one, or maybe this was the same one, my cell phone went off (I had just gotten my first cell phone and I hardly knew how to use it) – the man who was speaking up front stopped everything, looked at me, and told me to stop being so disruptive or something. I was humiliated, and wanted to scream WHAT WOULD JESUS DO to his face. Instead I just never went back.
With each new visit I grew more hopeless. After leaving yet another Christian meeting, I stalked a normal looking girl who had also been there. She was in the elevator and I ran after her. I think I gave her my number and begged for her to be my friend. She never called.
I was lonely. I began to wonder if I had made a mistake by going to a public university. Maybe I should’ve gone to a Christian college after all, like my parents had wanted. I prayed that God would send me at least one Christian friend.
In the meantime I would walk around campus, using my new cell phone to call all my old friends.
One day I was reading on a bench outside my dorm. A guy stood nearby behind a booth. The booth was promoting Cru, the one Christian organization I had yet to visit. I had visited Christian organizations on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of that first week, but Cru was on Thursday nights. I intended on going, but I didn’t have much hope for it.
I approached the guy, whose name was Kerry. I asked him about Cru and asked if there were many Christians on campus (what I meant was Christians who hadn’t been home schooled.) He said there were a lot. “Like what, 50?” I asked. He laughed. “Hundreds.” My mouth dropped. Really, it did. Kerry and I joked about it later, how stunned I was to hear there were that many Christians on campus. Surely some of them were normal!
On Thursday night I went to Cru. I was shocked and overwhelmed – there really were hundreds of people, and most of them looked well-adjusted. I was going to sit by myself, but in a last minute decision I chose to sit next to someone. I approached a nice-looking girl and asked if I could sit with her. To my relief, she said yes, and she actually seemed excited that I had asked her.
Through Grace I met Andria, one of her friends from high school. Soon after we met Sheila, and a few months later Lauren joined us. Our sophomore year we met Jolie and Chelsea.
God not only granted my wish for one Christian girlfriend – he went up and beyond by giving me a whole group of them.
The majority of my college memories are with these girls – they made my college experience what it was. We were there for each other, through good and bad.
Together we survived breakups, break downs, disappointments, car crashes, depression, frustration, surgery, apathy, brokenness, and so much more.
We had our good times, too. Road trips, photo shoots, cookouts, learning the New Year’s Eve dance routine that Ross and Monica do on Friends, blaring Bethany Dillon at all times, dressing up for Cru formals, Disney movie nights, playing Cowboys & Indians in the park, getting grounded by my parents when we ran away from them at Hocking Hills, Wednesday lunches, bridal showers and weddings, riding in the back of a pickup truck on the way to Cru, making huge piles of leaves at Wildwood and jumping in them like little kids, getting in trouble by security on Valentine’s Day, Christmas Conference, climbing on trains, mud fights, smoking cigars on the dock, late night conversations, circles of trust, smoking cigars on the balcony, the barn dance, birthday parties, dance parties, playing basketball at the rec, praying together, crying together, hanging out at Beaners, straight chillin’ at the apartment, and yet again, so much more.
Everything started to slow down the fall of 2007. Grace and Sheila got married and moved away. The following January Chelsea and Jolie studied abroad in Costa Rica. When they came back in May I graduated and left Toledo. We lost touch with Andria.
The years have gone on and we’ve mostly stayed in touch, some of us more than others.
This summer when I came back from the World Race I visited Sheila in California. Apparently she lives right off the 101, meaning you have to turn across the busy highway to get to her house. My directions did not make that clear. I didn’t have a cell phone, so I drove back and forth between Ventura to Santa Barbara for hours. I stopped at numerous gas stations, but no one recognized the address. It didn’t help that I didn’t have her phone number with me. Eventually a lady was able to direct me – she told me to turn across the highway. I was doubtful, but she was right.
When I finally made it to Sheila’s, she ran to the door and I practically collapsed in her arms, tired and frustrated as I was. Hugging her felt like home. That night it was cold, so we bundled up in blankets and sat on her balcony, overlooking the ocean. We talked about the good old days and the good ones that have yet to come.
We talked about having a reunion with the other girls, and while it was a lovely idea, it didn’t seem very likely. Sheila, Grace and Jolie are all married with full time jobs, and Chelsea and I are still in the limbo land of life. We currently live in three different states, covering the span of 3000 miles and 3 different time zones. But still, it was nice to dream.
A few months ago I was reading a book late at night, and one chapter detailed a reunion a woman had with her college friends. The author writes:
Share your life with the people you love, even if it means saving up for a ticket and going without a few things for a while to make it work. There are enough long lonely days of the same old thing, and if you let enough years pass, and if you let the routine steamroll your life, you’ll wake up one day, isolated and weary, and wonder what happened to all those old friends. You’ll wonder why all you share is Christmas cards, and why life feels lonely and bone-dry.
My eyes filled with tears as I thought about my college girlfriends. It was late and I was tired, but I jumped up from my bed and wrote them an email, saying I didn’t want our friendship to disintegrate into phone calls and Christmas cards and could we please plan a reunion? I went back to bed, anxiously wondering what their responses would be.
To my absolute delight, they were for it! We began a long chain on gmail as we tried to set a date. January? The roads would probably be too snowy. May? Too many weddings. Summer? Too many vacations (…and I thought I would be doing the Teach for America training institute.) We kind of hit a wall, and the emails slowed down. It looked like our reunion would only remain a dream after all.
But then! Sheila emailed and said she had a five-day weekend in December because her employers were out of town. She looked at plane tickets and they weren’t super expensive. Soon after the plan was set: we would gather together at Grace’s home in Wisconsin for a long weekend. Chelsea and Jolie asked off a day of work.
In less than two hours Chelsea will arrive at my house. Together we’ll drive to Jolie’s, and from there we’ll truck over to Wisconsin, where Sheila and Grace will be waiting. Unfortunately Lauren isn’t able to come, but we’re hoping she will be able to next time. Yes, that’s right. We want this to be an annual event.
It’s so strange to think back to my first few college days, and how lonely and desperate I was for [cool] Christian friends. Little did I know what God had in store for me, and little did I know that he’d still be wooing me with the same friends years later. I always used to tell Grace that since God provided me with such incredible friends I couldn’t even imagine the man he had in store for me.
And really, I think similarly about all of life – God has great things in store for me (for all of us), things that go far beyond all our meager prayer requests and all the silliness our hearts tend to desire. Sometimes we need to be willing to take a chance – God isn’t always just going to throw good things at us. Sometimes we need to get over ourselves, walk over to someone and ask if we can sit with them. Because, as I once learned, what could be waiting for you is a whole lotta grace.