A song came on this morning that was popular when I was in college. It immediately brought me back to a life of dorm rooms and dining halls. And then I began to think of them…the friends I had that planted a seed in my life. A seed that would begin to grow many years later.
Shortly after I arrived on campus I became involved with a Christian student organization. We went to Bible studies, worship services and even a weekend camp with a group of people who would show me the first glimpse of a life that I would later chase. A life of pure joy that I couldn’t understand but, oh, how I wanted it!
I wanted what they had.
My entire freshman year I spent a lot of time with a group of kids from two universities that were living their lives for Christ. And they were fun!! (Imagine that.) They accepted me and loved me. And that wasn’t all that easy. Yes, I hung out with their group but I also had my other foot in a circle of friends that were less than savory…young men that were involved with drugs and other illegal activities and young women who sold themselves out for an imitation of love that left them unhappy and empty.
Sometimes those worlds collided. (any friends of Seinfeld out there?? Do you remember George screaming “worlds colliding”? Yep, that was me.) My Christian friends were polite and funny, even though my other friends didn’t return their grace and were often very uncomfortable. Years later I would look back and realize in those times, my Christian friends would show no signs of leaving or budging…guarding me, holding me…willing me safe, if only by their own presence.
I felt their love. Confused it for a while for romantic intentions, but learned that in their world you could be friends, great wonderful, fully invested friends with no sex…when Christ was at the center of your foundation. I still didn’t get complete get it.
But, oh, how I wanted what they had.
My life changed dramatically in the years that followed. I quit college, moved thousands of miles away and began a life that was all my own — no family, no friends, no God. Just me. And while I had fun and met some friends who would become lifelong friends, I continued to search. Search for love — an unconditional, all-encompassing, overwhelming love. It wasn’t in bars or clubs. It wasn’t in one night stands or long-term relationships with men who neither respected me or knew how to love me more than the highs they were chasing.
For years I would live this same pattern, different locations, different cast of characters, but empty, joyless life that was filled with a search. And if I can be completely honest, I am not sure that I knew I was searching for something…this pattern of moving on, changing and clinging to men and places in my life didn’t make any sense but I just thought that was my life.
Did you catch that, I thought that my life was just meant to be a string of disappointing relationships and broken situations. I knew that’s all I was worth.
There’s no joy in that….no joy in a life lived with the weight of insecurity that leads you into a pathetic pattern of being a doormat and/or a punching bag. There’s no joy in a life where “love” only comes in the dark and is denied in the light of day.
And then I began to work for a man who was Christian. He wore his faith proudly, and easily shared Christ with those around him. But what really drew me to him was his joy. He laughed easily, loved whole-heartedly, and everywhere he went people were drawn to him. Quick to help. Quick to listen. And quick to share the truth. This man’s every breath pointed to Jesus. And in a time when my life was in HUGE transition he was like the warm breezes of God-sized refreshment blowing over my soul.
Here was a man who taught me about the Bible and how it worked in his life, and I never felt lectured or like I was in Sunday school. A man busy with his own family and life that took time out when I was quitting drinking to spend time with me so that I would not hit a bar. A man who accepted the details of my life I shared and never cringed or judge…just pointed to a better way with his friendship and example. This man was Jesus to me when I didn’t know who Jesus was or how to find Him.
And, by now you know, I wanted what he had!!
My life would never be the same after working for that man. I went on to accept Christ as my Savior. I met the man I would marry and our lives would spin off into this incredible whirlwind of marriage, family, ministry and more.
This morning I have what they had. I have Jesus. And the lessons the Christians in my life have taught me are numerous, but one outweighs them all. Living your life full of joy, truth and love from Jesus shines into a world that is desperately seeking them. We don’t need to beat people over the head or preach to them to draw them to Jesus…we have to live with them, among them, and be different. Live like Jesus works. (Because He does!) Live like our joy is Christ. (Because it is!) Live like our faith carries us through all. (Because it does!) Jesus will do the rest….we just have to be faithful to be open and real.
Because there are people out there that want we have!