Cynicism probably best describes my first few weeks of college. This is not at all to say that I was unhappy with this new stage of life. In fact, I was almost overly-excited about it. Perhaps that is why I adopted a critical, cynical attitude toward much of the new experience. I simply wanted to avoid being that freshman–the starry-eyed girl who can’t see a single flaw in the upperclassmen, her professors, or her studies. Or anything else for that matter. I didn’t want to see everything or everyone as perfect (because they aren’t!), but I tended toward the opposite extreme: I didn’t see anything or anyone as good enough. Once again, I was happy. I just wasn’t enamored with the school anymore. Maybe I could attribute this to expectations. I expected certain things. Honestly, I expected disappointment.
And that was silly.
Let’s take a couple of examples. First, school in general. I expected my classes to get boring fast, or at least for my classmates to be driving me crazy by this point. Yet, in spite of the 100s of pages of reading, the papers, and the impending exams, I am thrilled! I’m learning so much! Sure, it’s a lot of work, but I love classroom discussions! I love my professors, my colleagues are great, and my mind is growing quickly!
Now, let’s look at my more drawn-out example: the “church search.” I had fairly rigid expectations. I was going to find a non-denominational church or at least a church with a connection to my home church (through families there). It was going to be great. I went to that “perfect” church, the one that met pretty much all of my qualifications for a few weeks. Then God changed my plans.
See, a pastor from Grace Community Church came and spoke for chapel at college. Then one of the students who attends that church spoke at chapel. Both impressed me with their fidelity to Scripture and their passion for Jesus. It was clear that these people believe what they claim to believe. They truly trust that Jesus has POWER. I was curious about their church. But that wasn’t enough to convince me to attend. What I didn’t know was that God’s plan for me was much better than I could have imagined. The following Sunday none of my close friends were going to the church I had been at, but one of my roommates was trying Grace. On a whim, I climbed into a car packed with 4 other girls, and we were off. We laughed and had a great time on the way there, but I was still a little nervous.
Then we pulled up to the church. I couldn’t help noticing that it wasn’t actually a church building at all–it was a local high school. I’d never been to a church like that before–not that it was a problem, just different. We walked in and were greeted by some families. There were several kids from my college, and we all sat together. I was starting to feel comfortable. I chatted with my roommate and waited for the service to start.
Pretty early in the service, it became evident that the church was dealing with something major. I liked the music and all, but something was up. When the head pastor came onto the stage, he talked of a great trial that the church was experiencing. Turned out that 2 of their pastors had resigned in the past week. Well, that was almost enough to launch me out of my seat. This past summer, right after my senior year, 2 of the pastors from my home church resigned. I recalled how painful it was to let them go, even though I knew they were following God’s will. So, there I sat, in a church a 14-hour drive from home with no one who knew my past experience. I seriously thought that I wouldn’t make it through the service. In fact, I almost ran out of the room. I was sick to my stomach, I was dizzy, and I was arguing with God. My mind had a constant stream running through it: “No, God. I won’t do this. I can’t do this. Not again. No.” I was cynical and critical. I wouldn’t let this happen to me again. This must not be a good church… I started judging everything. Yet God held me down in my seat, despite all my mental fighting and physical squirming. And I sat. And listened. The pastor preached on Job. He spoke of how this was a time of mourning for the church, that God was still moving and working, but things might seem uncertain. And this church, like brothers and sisters, lifted God’s name high and glorified Him in the way they handled such a loss. Yes, they were sad. Yes, there were hurt feelings. Yes, they were suffering. But they knew, and they know, that God is bigger than all the pain, than all the fear, than all the uncertainty. And it blew my mind. This church was raw. They were openly mourning, not fearing what visitors thought but welcoming us and acknowledging their pain simultaneously.
So, the next week I went back. There were all sorts of great adventures getting to and from church, but the greatest adventure has been becoming a part of Grace Community Church. I have a family there, both of students from school and of families who also belong to that community. So much for my cynicism. So much for my critical attitude. So much for my silly ideas that God didn’t have the best in mind for me. This Sunday will mark a month at Grace Community Church for me. God knew what He was doing. I’m so glad He took me along for this crazy-good ride. =) Dios te bendiga.