It’s a painful process sometimes. But then again, at other times, it’s beautiful.
I think I’ve been doing a lot of it, this growing, during my time here at Hope so far. And, God willing, I’ll continue to until the end of this semester as well.
I’m still in a rather large amount of inner turmoil, in trying to figure out where God wants me, and if it’s here. I’ve found myself thinking that if this turns out NOT to be the place God wants me, then I’ve pretty much just wasted a year of my life. Right? I mean, I made the wrong choice. If this isn’t where God wants me, then…I’ve messed things up and wasted these nine months of school, when I could have been at the RIGHT place, doing what God WANTS me to do.
But you know? I’ve been having this very…gradual…epiphany over the past few weeks (and I know the definition of “epiphany” generally involves an instantaneous revelation or burst of insight, but I’m being oxymoronic. Because I can. And because epiphany is an amazing word).
My epiphany is this (and I have no idea why you care =P): even if Hope is the “wrong” place for me, it’s still right. The first few weeks of being here my first semester, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that this was…where I should be. Every time I paused a minute, I kept getting this reoccurring thought that I just couldn’t shake…I would find myself saying, aloud or in my head, “This is right. This is good.” By the end of the semester, that feeling was long gone. That thought hadn’t occurred to me in a long time, and instead I found myself wondering why I had felt that way if this really WASN’T good? If this really WASN’T the place where God wants me?
But I’ve decided that that isn’t the point. If this is not where God wants me to spend all four of my college years, then that doesn’t make it any less good or right. It IS good, and it IS right, for my first year. God brought me here for a reason, even if I don’t stay. I’m growing.
I’ve been doing things here that I never would have undertaken at home. The biggest ways I’ve been stepping out of my comfort zone are through my on-campus job, and…Sacred Dance.
My job is…kind of obvious. =P Working at the Phonathon…I still consider it kind of like…torture/a little piece of Anna’s Worst Nightmare turned into real life. =P But…I’m doing it. It never was really hard…it just was so. utterly. terrifying. But it’s getting to be a lot less. Before I came to Hope, I flat-out refused to answer the phone, unless the caller ID said it was Daddy. My family can attest. And as for actually picking the horrible thing up and DIALING it…and like, CALLING someone…well. You’d catch me quite thoroughly dead before I’d even think about it. =P I pretty much had cultivated a nice little phobia of the terrifying things.
So my job at the Phonathon…I literally sit at a desk, with a headset on, and dial phone numbers. For four hours straight, two nights a week. And I CALL people. Hundreds and hundreds and thousandsssss of people. And I TALK to them. I start the conversation, I carry it on, I make up for the awkward pauses, I bring the conversation to a close…and then I ask them for money which they only give me if I did a convincingly sincere enough job on the conversation part. It’s all me. And I do it over and over and over. I never would have dreamed that I would EVER be able to make myself do something like that before I came to Hope. But here I am, doing it and doing it well. Or, well-ish, anyway.
The second way I’ve been growing is, as I said, through the Sacred Dance group here on campus. first of all, it has pushed me to really dance, and use that dancing for God. I never did ANY sort of improv-ing before coming here…and a lot of what we do at Sacred is improv. Improv to music, improv to silence, improv alone, improv as a group (called “flocking”), improv to someone reading a Bible verse out loud. You name it, we improv it. Before coming to Hope, I was terrified of doing that. But here? I’m doing it. And you know…I’ve decided it’s really fun. =)
And another thing about Sacred…it’s helped me to SEE the places where I have grown. And to see how MUCH I have grown. Tonight, five of us Sacred girls went to a Rescue Mission that’s a few blocks away. I was one of the five. I had no idea what a Rescue Mission even…entailed. I knew we were going to be dancing as part of a chapel service for the people there…but I didn’t find out until I was in the car on my way there, when it was a good three months too late to back out, that…WE, the five of us, were going to be the only ones AT the chapel service. The only ones running it. THE ones running it. I thought there was going to be someone else there…maybe someone leading some worship songs. Or a guy giving a short message. We were just going to be a side attraction. So I thought. Til I got there. And was told by the girl who was heading our little group, one of the leadership members of the Sacred club, that we were going to do our dance, and then…break the people at the Mission up into five groups. And each of us was going to get a group. And it was going to be just the one of us…and six or eight other people. Strange people. Who we know nothing at all about. and we were going to do…a bible study with our groups. All by ourselves. And we were going to talk about the dance and talk about the bible and tell them about God’s love.
I…was going to have to take a group of complete and total strangers, who came from all different sorts of difficult or shady backgrounds, and…TALK to them. By myself. About God. It was a Christian Mission, so supposedly they all already knew Christ. But…even then. What do I say to these people? What can I say to someone who has been immersed in drug abuse for the past ten years and has gone to jail? What do I say to someone whose husband just dumped her the night before? What do I say to the child sitting there in the corner, wearing ragged clothes and obviously well acquainted with feeling cold? What do I say to the old man in the front row, who doesn’t talk and who looks oh so tired? What can I have to tell these people who come from broken homes, or no homes at all, and are living on charity in a Rescue Mission?
Sitting in that tiny chapel room before the people showed up, looking over bible verses with the four other dancers and talking about this, I knew I should have been scared stiff. I should have gotten up and said no, I can’t do this, and left the room. I should have run. It was only a block or two from campus and I knew the way back and it wasn’t snowing hard. I should have gotten out of there. A year ago, I would have. I should have turned white as a sheet and been unable to speak, because I was so utterly terrified. I should have had butterflies in my stomach and a knot in my chest and shaking hands with sweaty palms. A year ago, I would have.
And as I was sitting there, thinking these things…KNOWING that I SHOULD have felt them all and been terrified…I wasn’t. I didn’t. It didn’t frighten me. I wasn’t scared at all. I was…excited? (insert many, many prayers of gratitude here)
So we did our thing. We prayed. We danced. And we split the room up into five groups. And I walked up to my little area, all by myself, and sat down on the floor and invited everyone to pull their chairs up in a circle so they all could hear. and I opened my Bible. And I asked them what they thought of the dance. Read 1 John 4:7-12 to them. Asked them what they thought about love. God’s love. Told them a bit about how it made ME feel, knowing that even when human love fails, and human love is corrupted, and human love hurts me so much, even then, God’s love still is and God’s love never ever disappears. And then…I listened.
I listened to them talk about their experiences of human love, and of God’s. I listened to them telling me that God’s love doesn’t end. They told me that no matter what happens, God is still there, and why can’t everyone just SEE this and be ALIVE with it? They told me that they were living in a Rescue Mission, but they weren’t ashamed of it, because it was God’s providing. A woman told me that when she had cancer that was so far along, and was killing her, and she couldn’t take the chemo treatments because they just about killed her too, she prayed. All she did was pray, for one year. And the doctors told her she was dying. And a year later, she went back to the doctors, and they couldn’t find any cancer anywhere at all, it was all gone, and she has been free of it now for nine years and all she did was pray. A man told me that he was so close to becoming an ordained pastor, but he fell into alcoholism, and was lost in drugs and jail for years, but he couldn’t get the voice of God out of his head, and so finally he pulled out of all that and is now married and will have a child soon, and he’s learning how to be a good husband and father.
I sat there, and at first I did a lot of the talking. I asked the questions. I should have been terrified but I wasn’t even nervous a bit. And then they all started to talk to each other and I could just sit and listen, and those people, those people from all manner of difficult lives, from the smallest children to the old men, all of them…they all had a story, and they all had Jesus, and so all of their stories were joyful.
It’s funny how much you learn, when you are the one who is supposed to be teaching, if you just sit back and listen.
So Hope College? Thanks. Even if I don’t come back next year. Thanks. Because you’ve taught me a lot. And you’ve showed me God’s love. And you are pretty cool, I guess. And God? You’re more cool. And thanks for sending me here, because I’ve learned a lot. When I let myself be in awe of You…when I stop letting myself be homesick and crying myself to sleep, when I pull my thoughts away from debt and distance and confusion…when I let myself look up and look around and SEE all You’ve done, it amazes me. Because “Your love never fails, it never gives up, never runs out on me.” And even if it feels like I made the wrong choice in coming here, I know I really didn’t. Because You are in control. And You put me here. And You can put me somewhere else. I shouldn’t STOP thinking about debt/distance/confusion…I need to figure those things out. But I can’t let myself forget about You in the process. Because if I forget about You, how can I follow Your will?
…And God? One more thing…whatever You have for me next year…wherever I end up heading from here…whatever happens…my answer’s Yes. Yes.