“I woke up the first Sunday morning at Bucknell University tired and hung over from a frat party the night before. As I dragged myself out of bed and walked to the chapel that morning, I came to the conclusion that no one would ever know if I just decided not to do the ‘church thing’ for the next four years of college. Soon, college became for me a place to hide from God. Besides abandoning church on Sunday, I also started to make lots of compromises in terms of my time, money, energy, and dating relationships. I saw college as a haven from the pressure to make wise choices–a place where I could do what I wanted to do with little or no accountability and be told that that was completely normal and mainstream. I enjoyed this new-found freedom for a short time, but life soon started to feel hollow and unfulfilling. I was running to the things that I thought would give me life, but instead I felt like I was slowly watching my joy, my contentment, and even my dreams start to die.
When my freshman year ended, I felt a deep sense of sadness that I couldn’t shake. Around that time, I saw an email indicating that there was a Christian group on campus called InterVarsity that was having a get-together called The Well. Feeling like I had nothing to lose, I decided to go. There was just something about the songs we sung and the message I heard from the speaker that I couldn’t put my finger on, but it made me weep. In the following weeks, I continued to go to The Well. Each week, I sat in the back, cried the whole time, and then got up quickly and left. I couldn’t figure out for the life of me what it was that was making the tears flow, but I knew that it felt good.
My sophomore year ended up being full of challenges. I felt that God was calling me to examine my lifestyle and most significantly, inviting me to step out of my long-term dating relationship. This was a huge challenge for me because dating had defined most of my adult life up until that point. Who would I be if I wasn’t so-and-so’s girlfriend? As hard as it was to give up that part of my life, I found freedom in this new season of life. I started to let Jesus define me rather than allowing a relationship to do it.
After much deliberation, I decided that summer to participate in InterVarsity’s Lancaster Urban Team. This was a real turning point in my relationship with Jesus. That summer, I realized how much of my life revolved around me—my life, my choices, and my desires. For the first time, I was encouraged to look up and focus on something bigger than my own selfishness. It felt like I was given new eyes that summer that enabled me to see more clearly how issues of injustice played out before me on campus and in my own life. For the last two years of college, I chose a new scene on campus and lived in the African American Studies House. It was challenging to have the culture of my own upbringing held in comparison to that of my other housemates.
The following summer, I again felt a call to join InterVarsity in doing a Global Project in Ethiopia. My picture of Jesus and my categories for who God is were once again stretched and reshaped. It was incredible to see God’s Spirit moving so strongly in my Ethiopian brothers and sisters, and I learned so much about prayer, hope, entitlement, and trust. Once again, it seemed as if a huge spotlight had been thrown on my own culture and upbringing that revealed things–both good and bad. I knew the implications of that summer would play out very strongly in my life, but I did not know exactly how that would look. As my senior year unfolded, the picture began to get a bit clearer.
My idea of success was one thing that God had really flipped around during my four years of college. To me, success meant moving to New York City after college, living alone in an apartment, joining a big-name company that would plug me into corporate America, and working insane hours to support the lifestyle. This picture of success was especially appealing to me because I placed a high value on making a name for myself. The allure and glamour of corporate America, even at high personal cost, seemed worth the recognition and fame it would surely gain me. As I started to follow Jesus more and more, I began to see that my dreams were built on what I thought I wanted rather than what God had for me.
When my staff worker suggested the idea of joining InterVarsity staff after college I laughed–there is no way God would be calling me to that. The idea nagged at me, but I continued to push it out of my mind. That was one territory in my life that was really hard to let Jesus control–what would my parents think? How would my friends and professors respond?
I remember clearly the day I decided to do a volunteer year with InterVarsity. I was sitting in a café on a rainy afternoon on campus and was journaling with my cup of tea. I asked God to give me clarity as to what the next year should look like and instantly I was flooded–simply flooded–with memories of the past four years. I was bombarded by pictures of God’s faithfulness to me at each and every step along the amazing road of the past four years. It was then that I knew that pursuing Jesus would mean following him to Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA to volunteer with InterVarsity and train to become a Campus Staff Member. Who would have thought that God would take my hopes and dreams of my freshman year and completely change them into something infinitely more fulfilling and lifegiving?
I am so thankful that Jesus met me in the very place I had gone to hide from him–at college. I love watching him continue to work in my own life as well as meet the students around me and beckon them with the same, unchanging call: to follow Jesus.