Hey, friends! It’s been way too long, and I hope that the world is being kind to all of you. My first semester of college was crazy- the good kind of crazy, when your heart is full and steady in the midst of the whirlwind. I’m in awe of the incredible people I have gotten to meet, the love and friendship I have gotten to experience. I have sat down to write countless times, and somehow, every time something stops me. An opportunity to interact with another person arises, or I simply cannot find the right words for what I want to say. Maybe, in some cases, I’ve been able to find exactly the right words, but I’ve been lacking the courage to fully and honestly confront all the “stuff” going on in my head. Whatever the reasons, I’m excited to be back. I hope that I find the time, words, and courage to be back much more often.
I had this idea in my head of the person I would be in college. I would go to church every Sunday; I would get up and watch the sunrise while reading my Bible on the lake; and I would start to do all the other things you’re supposed to do that I haven’t consistently done in a really long time. Here I am, finished with a semester, and none of that has been accomplished. I read my Bible on the lake one solitary time. Sometimes I feel guilty for not being one of the girls on my hall who wakes up early on Sunday mornings to drive to church or who does a Bible study every morning and goes to every Christian club meeting on campus… but then I think about myself and wonder why on earth I had such a ridiculous expectation for myself.
I believe very deeply in a lot of different things, two of them being: (1) treating everyone, including ourselves, with tenderness is essential to being able to function and (2) God is content with us, exactly the way we are at any given moment. I haven’t found spiritual connection in any of the things you’re “supposed to do” in a really long time, but I find spiritual connection many times throughout each day. I find it when I help the girls on my hall who get hurt and when I talk to my friend of Jewish faith about our beliefs. I find it when I bake in my brother’s apartment and leave treats on the kitchen counter, when I clear dishes for people at lunch. I find it everywhere, all in the time in my interactions with other people… And I have to believe that God is really okay with that.
I have to believe that God is a lot more okay with my insecurities and idiosyncrasies than I am. My Bible sits on a shelf on my desk at eye level. Sometimes I look up at it and I get really angry because it reminds me of all the times Christians use it as justification to hurt other people. Sometimes I get really upset with myself because I just can’t interact with God that way, and sometimes it makes me really anxious because I know I’m supposed to be reading it but I’m choosing not to. I have to believe that God knows my heart so well and that it’s exactly the way he wanted. I have to believe that He’s constantly speaking love and life into me, regardless of the medium through which He has to speak in order to get through to me.
I read a prayer early on this semester that, for whatever reason, got through. “Help us to be brave with one another. For these are the days.” I’ve adopted it as one of the personal prayers I repeat often to myself throughout the day. “Help me to be brave with the people around me.” A lot of the time, it’s scary to love the people around us as fully and as extravagantly as we want. We worry about how our kindness will be interpreted and the conclusions people will be tempted to draw. It takes a lot of courage to exemplify love in ways that aren’t common and comfortable, especially when you’re in a new environment with new people who aren’t used to the way you love.
People still think it’s weird when I try to clear their dishes in the dining hall or go slightly out of my way to do something for someone else, and at first, the perception that my actions were weird made me hesitant to continue them. Then, I realized that the general public’s reaction to the way that I wanted to love people broke my heart more than it embarrassed me. We are so unfamiliar with genuine, unadulterated love that it’s not only rare but also somewhat peculiar in nature. And, I decided that I couldn’t perpetuate that state of our existence. I had to become brave enough to love as fully and extravagantly as I wanted, regardless of what other people might think. A lot of the time, I don’t do nearly as good a job loving other people as I should, but I have a lot of hope in the belief that God is going to find ways to help me grow and that He’s still going to love me until then.
We don’t get to be here for very long, so I hope that we all find the courage to love each other a little bigger while we are.
All the love in the world, Shannon