Wisdom for Graduates: Relational Rhythms Will Change
In one year, I married off seven friends, left the neighborhood I’d inhabited since my first year of college, moved into a new house with two people who were never home, and lost my mentor when his wife took a job 500 miles away. “Jesus!” I prayed after New Student Outreach (NSO) ended last fall. “Send me a friend!”
A New Acts 2 Community
If you’ve been part of InterVarsity for four years (or even one semester!) you must have studied Acts 2, especially verse 42: “and they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” If you haven’t already figured it out, college facilitates this kind of close-knit community, where your best friend lives 100 yards away, you can go to Bible study in your PJs, and you know who you’re going to eat every meal with every day of the week for the rest of the semester.
In comparison, life after college works against Acts 2 community. It’s much more segmented, and can often feel lonely and awkward—like someone changed the rhythm of a dance you’d just perfected. But God has been faithful to provide me with community after college, and I believe he will for you too, even if looks different from what you expect or have grown accustomed to.
The Things That Bring Friends Together
Skype dates and travel connections. In answer to my semi-desperate, post-NSO prayer, Jesus sent Rebeca, a fellow INFJ who is on LaFe staff in my region. After the InterVarsity Women’s Conference in 2011, we committed to being spiritual friends even though we live in different states. Between regional staff training events (at which we always request to be roommates) we make it a priority to share and pray monthly(ish) over Skype and to visit each other as we can, even when it means adding a day and some miles to another trip.
Maintaining this kind of intimacy long distance takes planning and creative scheduling, but it is possible. I think often of Paul—he pastored entire congregations of people he loved from prison with letters. With all the technology available to us now, we can definitely make long-distance friendships work.
Mutual service and commitment. Jesus also sent Claire, a non-Christian just out of college who showed up at my church and kept coming. Eighteen months and many fights later, she finally became a Christian, and I rejoiced with her.
We see each other every Tuesday at the church Bible study we’ve committed to (but don’t always love). I’ve stayed up late into the night answering her questions about faith and responding to her complaints against the Church. She’s driven many miles in her van to retrieve free furniture for my house.
Claire and I don’t always see eye to eye on faith or politics or ethics, and we don’t always feel like we belong in a church where all of our peers are married with babies on their hip, but week after week we choose to stay and walk through conflict together instead of jumping ship.
Understanding and encouragement. And Jesus sent Laura, a single woman on staff who is 25 years my senior but who just gets me. She has been willing to invest in me and let me ask her all kinds of questions about her ministry experience and expertise. We only met twice this semester, but the conversations were (and continue to be) helpful to me in my life with Jesus and catalytic to my ministry on campus.
Food, walks, and talks. And Jesus sent Sarah. Like me, she’s single, a Christian, and in her mid-twenties. And the clincher? We actually live in the same city.
Sarah and I met last year while she was volunteering with Catholic students on the campus where I work as InterVarsity staff. For whatever reason, I didn’t click with her at first. But in October I took a risk and invited her to go on a hike with me. We had a great time and connected over our common faith, life stage, and dreams for our future.
She’s now one of my closest friends, and we get together every few weeks to cook and eat a meal together, or to take a walk after work. I’m glad Jesus opened my eyes to the friend he’d given me even before I’d thought to ask for one.
As I said, creating and enjoying an Acts 2 community after college is possible, but like all good things it requires patience, creativity, commitment, and lots of prayer. This shouldn’t surprise us. The Greek word in Acts 2:42 translated as “devoted” actually means “to continue to do something with intense effort,” and “to persist” or “continue steadfast in” doing something, all of which implies difficulty and struggle.
I bet there were times when the early Christians wanted to bail, when they wished they could custom-order the kind of community they wished for, when being bound to each other just seemed too costly. But verse 43 says that they didn’t give up and that many were awestruck at the work God did in and through their fellowship.
My unconventional post-college Acts community isn’t perfect. My friendships are seldom easy. But I am filled with awe and gratitude to Jesus for them. May the same be true for you.
Kasey Kimball is in her fourth year on staff with Intervarsity at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland. She proudly professes to being a nerd, a recovering perfectionist, a foodie, and a devoted fan of the Boston Red Sox.
Check out all the posts in our May series for graduates: