Now, before I go on to describe the “Dream Life” I must ask you to please keep in mind my “historical context.” Only months before writing this I was finishing up my last semester at college. At a Christian Liberal Arts college-to be exact. And, to be even more specific, I was finishing up my degree: Religion major with a Mission-Service Career Concentration.
For anyone reading this who is not a Christina, I feel that I should make something known: This is/was not the kind of college where a young Christian goes and gets re-affirmed in the exact same faith they came with–you know, the conservative right, stagnant, suburbia-dwelling…you know what I mean..this is not that kind of college-especially in the Religion department.
We went as naive Christians, some- skeptical of what these “Liberal” professors could offer to US, some seeking to engage in deeper level conversations…and some of us just wound up there because we didn’t have anywhere else to go. We were definitely a bunch of misfits.
To all the Christians who may be reading this I fell I must clarify. If you are satisfied with your faith–do notattend this college. It. will. mess. you. up. big time. It will ask you tough questions, and will ask tougher questions of you-make you think about the Bible in radically new and completely different ways. You may even learn that church pews were made by and for sinners (big one, I know). You may even learn that love exceeds a language and a dress code…and that MERCY TRIUMPHS OVER JUDGMENT. It will cost all you have–because the “it” is Jesus–and he calls us to pick up our cross and follow him, to sell all our possessions and give to the poor, to become peacemakers, to serve God- not Mammon, and to see the Kingdom of God, for it is near.
It was in this setting that I was challenged to give all I could in “service to the Kingdom.” So…I did.
I joined a praise/worship team where I sang and played my guitar in local churches. I spent my first Spring Break on a mission trip to the inner city where we volunteered at an after school program–where I learned that the community of believers in the city is powerful and strong–and where I also saw how divided and cruel the streets can be. My sophomore year I spent in training for a summer mission program where I spent 7 weeks in Guatemala. In that short time I redefined familiar words: family, home, love… I joined the Prison Ministry team and even became the ‘worship leader’ for the group as we traveled to the State Penitentiary and Boys’ Training School to worship with these brothers in Christ. I became a Bible study leader on campus, was a member of the Campus Ministry Team. I attended chapel. When I would go out to “drink” on the weekends it was with other Religion Majors–and we’d talk theology over a few pints.
I lived in radical community; I lived in community that stressed acceptance as a way of life and love–and I learned I don’t have to say “Jesus” to someone in order to show them God’s never-failing love.
I began to see a new and radical way of life–simple living. I picked up a new fashion of rolled-up jeans and white T-shirts.
I stayed up way too late talking about what it means to love my neighbor, who is God, what is God like, what is the Kingdom like, how do I live in such a way to glorify and bring forth the Kingdom?
I was growing. But not by myself. I was surrounded by others-keeping me in reality’s (sometimes harsh) check. We were all struggling–whether we wore it openly on our sleeves or bottled it up as best we could. We shared with each other, learned how to live together. We were growing uncomfortably together. Always together. So much so–the word “community” became the butt of many jokes, and some days it seemed the only thing you wanted from the people around you was to be left alone.
But together we grew. Day after exhausting day. Challenge by challenge. One decision after another. Heart ache, rejoicing, death, life, tears of both pain and joy. Together we walked and fell, laughed and cried and learned to simply “be” together. Some days it seemed like hell–facing everything life was throwing at us. But one thing is certain; going through hell with someone beside you makes the journey much easier to endure. Even though we could not carry each other’s burdens–we learned to carry each other.
And it was from this dream that I awoke.