In 7thgrade, I was obsessed with Civil War history. During lunch I would sneak off to the library and read cheesy historical fiction about one of the bloodiest conflicts in American history. Some kids knew a lot about getting girlfriends; I knew a lot about Gettysburg. I never made a game-winning 3-pointer or won anyone’s heart, but I did learn how to love a good story.
So it shouldn’t be too surprising that my favorite part of InterVarsity’s annual Orientation for New Staff (ONS) this year was hearing about the movement’s history.
I loved hearing the story of what God has been doing on campus. In fact, I was humbled by how much had happened before I ever showed up to an InterVarsity meeting.
I am beginning to understand that I am part of a complex history of world changers and prophetic dreamers. And as I learn to interact with and appreciate this history, I have noticed that there are things from the past that echo true on the campus today.
Like the idea that “we take pimply-faced, introverted, legalistic freshmen and turn them into biblical Christians.”
If you’ve been around InterVarsity much, you know this quote. And when they shared that our first president Stacey Woods had said that, the majority of us new staff responded with an appreciative laugh and a more subtle sense of “yes, that is exactly what we do and I’m glad someone understands.”
But while it’s a fun, pithy quote, I’m struck by how true this idea of carving world changers out of “pimply faced” students is.
I was a pimply-faced, introverted, legalistic freshman.
Or, at least I was the embodiment of this idea. I didn’t have pimples, extreme introversion, Christian legalism and I wasn’t even a freshman when I got involved in InterVarsity. My story has different variables, but the thing that matters—the Holy Spirit inspired transformation—is the same.
I showed up to my fellowship as a new Christian. I was a sophomore. I had lots of patchy facial hair, only wore plaid and thought my loud, dramatic ideas were the most important thing anyone would ever hear. Sometimes, I still act this way. But by the grace of God, after 3 years as a student and 1 year as an intern staff, I can say that I am transformed into something resembling a biblical Christian.
Now, I don’t lead people to Christ standing in line at Starbucks. I forget to pray for my meals and I think bad thoughts when the San Francisco Giants lose.
But I am willing to give the rest of my life to advance the kingdom of God in the name of Jesus. I am eager to read and be transformed by the Word of God. And I want to see God’s people reconciled and worshiping in multiethnic fellowship. And God-willing, this will be the pattern of the rest of my life.
I could not have told you those things 4 years ago. I would have told you that “the Dream” was to write a good novel, marry a supermodel literary type, and live in a house with lots of trees in the front yard. And if I could play first base for the Giants, that was great too.
Some of those things still sound nice. But more than that, I want to see a world where the peace and justice of God is pervasive and impactful. And I want to invite others to be a part of it.
I dream these kinds of dreams because I had staff workers and a community that were willing to love me through the transformation. “Pimply-faced freshmen” are not developed into world changers in one Bible study.
Want to know a secret?
I think Stacey Woods was a pimply faced, introverted legalistic freshman too. In fact, that’s probably why it still gives us goose bumps to hear that quote 50 years later. Because that’s all of us. No one is so special that they just “get” what it means to be a biblical Christian. There are no born world-changers. We all have our “pimples” or “legalism” or whatever you want to call it.
That’s how Stacey Woods and I are the same. We were transformed by Jesus, in large part because there were people who were farther along the road that were willing to invest in us. Eat food with us. Listen to us cry about girls and family and complain about how we thought the world was ending even though it was not.
People who understood that God changes the world through pimply faced, legalistic freshmen and in that process, transforms them into world-changers. Biblical Christians.
I don’t know exactly how God is going to restore and reconcile all peoples and things to himself. But I know I am part of good story. I know that it’s better than any 3-pointer I could have made, book about Gettysburg I could have read, or girl I could have made blush with a silly poem. It lasts. And if I’m faithful and share what Jesus has shown me with my students, it will continue for generations or until he returns.