Before I go any further, I just want to say that absolutely none of this comes from a place of anger, bitterness, or regret. I have learned these lessons on my own because they were lessons I needed to be taught. I am not blaming, accusing, or hating on any person, group of people, or organization. This is just what I have learned and how I have grown from my experience.
I have learned how to be strong. I have learned how to have the courage to keep going.
For the first three years of my college career I was in a whirlwind of activities. I was a part of several different school organizations, on leadership at my church, and also a leader in on-campus ministries. Not only did I participate on paper with titles, but all of my free time was consumed with leading others or being present every single time anyone asked me to be there. I would stay up all hours of the night, get up early, and sometimes miss my homework deadlines due to the amount of responsibility I had put upon myself.
By the middle of my Junior year I was flat out exhausted. I was tired. I was discouraged. I was burnt out. And it wasn’t the fact that I wasn’t being “filled” spiritually… I was in SO many Bible studies it is CRAZY. And I actually was learning from all of them. It was just that I felt the need for rest. Maybe instead of being at six (yes SIX) ministry related activities each WEEK, I needed to take time to rest in God’s presence. To remember why I had loved doing what I did.
And that is what I did. I had become too attached to the “Leader” label. I loved it. I loved hearing people say I was on leadership or was a team leader. I loved being super involved and having a voice. I loved fighting for my passion when others did not deem it important. But I loved it too much; I loved it more than the reason why I was doing these things. So with that, I pulled out all of my leadership and membership applications for my Senior year, ready and willing to see how God would use this last year of college for His glory.
This year has literally been the hardest year yet. Being a senior brings life change with harder classes (and then getting engaged…) and less time, and I felt it. So I tried to reach out. It seemed that no matter how hard I tried to love, encourage, or meet with people, things never worked out. I began to feel the loneliness.
I began noticing how since I had no label, I was not important. I knew nothing of events to go to until after they were over. I could never meet with the people I needed/wanted to. My community was lost. All because I let go of a title. Something I believed would be freeing and joyful and encouraging turned in to loneliness, sadness, and hurt.
I felt feelings of betrayal and being forgotten. I had wrapped my community up into one place, and it was shattered when I could no longer give as much of me as I had before.
These depressing thoughts loomed over me daily.
I could not escape the trap of loneliness that I thought was so unjustly cast upon me.
And in someways I am still dealing with these emotions. While this year is coming to an end, I have realized the purpose.
The Lord does not call me to a life of comfort.
The Lord does not call me to a life of popularity.
The Lord does not call me to a life of half-heartedness.
The Lord calls me to live a life that invests. A life that loves deeply. A life that encourages even when I am not being encouraged. A life of rejection. A life of being an outcast. A life of joy that only comes from Him.
See, I lost that when I was a part of these leadership teams. I loved being a part of the team so much that i would become surface level in my friendships.
I realized that even though it seems like it is, the church is not supposed to be a fraternity.
That is what my community was. Surface level. Giving to me only if I gave all I had. I felt that I had to have a certain personality to fit in. I had to wear certain clothes or say certain phrases to be included in these ministries. And I did these things. I changed to become like others. And that was what had burnt me out. I was being a different person that I was called to be.
God used these experiences to show me how far I had gone into my safety bubble. My little Christian bubble was so thick, I could not see outside of it. I could not see when people were hurting. I had to live a year of my life outside of the bubble. Make friends with those different than me. To feel the rejection and bitterness. To feel alone.
I don’t understand everything (obviously…). But I do feel more open. I feel more compassion to those outside of the selective ministry we have created. God is bigger than just that small group. He loves everyone.
What am I doing to share that?