As many students head back to school this week and next, I think of my own school memories. I don’t remember to many specifics about kindergarten or elementary school. I remember enjoying it, the images of the school hallways and some of my childhood friends. My years in middle school and high school are easier for me to remember. I remember certain people, events, class projects and trips. There are things that marked that time in my life. A time when I was very uncertain of who I was. When it came time to go to college I had great aspirations and dreams of what it would be. These dreams collided with reality upon my arrival and the sheltered world I had grown up in was shattered. My parents were older when they had me and my sister – older in the sense of my Dad was 44 and my Mom was 42. This is not so uncommon today, but in the 1980’s it made for a very different upbringing.
When I went away to college I was not stylish; I wore baggy clothes, my hair pulled back in the proverbial pony tail and didn’t know how to do makeup. I had gone to private school my whole life in which you wore a uniform every single day. I didn’t know what was “hip” or flattering. At this point in my life, I didn’t put much stock in my appearance nor did I realize that the whole world was judging every detail of my physical appearance. I had no real social skills and was oblivious to this fact as well. My college experience was a culture shock. I went to a liberal college after being in a private Christian school my whole life. My roommate was so incredibly different from me that I had no idea how to relate to her. My conservative Christian values did not mix well with her world view. I had a “not in Kansas anymore” moment at least once a week. Sometimes I wish that me that I am now, someone who knows who she is, what she stands for (you know, the older wiser version of 17 year old me) could go back and tell myself 2 things:
1. Tell my 17 year old self that it gets better and that life is amazing at age 29 1/2 and that this experience is going to teach you more then you realize in of this moment.
2. PRAY. Pray for her. That roommate. The one that was an only child who had no concept of shared space. Pray for the anger that seemed to rage inside her. Pray for peace in the midst of conflict. Pray for wisdom and guidance.
Looking back now I realize there was serious spiritual warfare going on in that dorm room. As much as I want to just hate her, for not being kind, for making such snap judgments of me, for not including me – I know that God allowed her to be in my life for that season for a purpose. Perhaps to help me see the peace that he brings to my soul. Perhaps it was to teach me about others, ones from different upbringings and that not everyone in the world is going to agree / like / understand you.
My entire experience at college was not all bad. I learned a lot about people, personalities, myself – my sheltered world was shattered, but it allowed me to see what was out there. To see the hurt that was in the world. To help me understand more fully the mighty power and sovereign grace of God. Through my darkest days there, He was with me. He allowed me to walk through difficulties in life so that I may learn. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t learn or realize these things in and of any of the moments in that dorm. In that dorm I was hurt and angry and confused. Some days now when I think back to that time in my life I am still hurt and angry. Things did not go the way they were “supposed” to. My plans did not pan out. Silly me, God’s plans are better than ANYTHING I could have every dreamed of. Here I am now with a good job, a nice home, an amazing husband, an awesome son, friends and family who actually care about me, my day, my life. I am surrounded by people who encourage me, lift me up in prayer, help me focus on God and what’s truly important. For this, I say Thank You.