While at university socialising wasn’t an option, it just happened. I lived with friends, I studied with them, I partied with them; there was very little effort involved in meeting new people and spending time with them. In my final year it became even easier because, like most of my friends, I lived on campus, so it was really easy to make plans, most of them being a five minute walk away.
But when you don’t live in a university bubble, everything changes.
Unlike in Stirling, I no longer go to classes or the library every day, meaning I don’t bump into people I know very much. I don’t go to the same Church as all my best friends and am currently trying to become part of a Church community with a bunch of people I’ve never met before. But the biggest change is probably that the majority of my social activities involve relying on someone to drive me somewhere or taking public transport (I took public transport in Stirling, but it mostly involved nothing more than a five minute bus journey into town).
So, now, things are a bit different. However, they are also incredibly similar. In my second year of university I had to step out of my comfort zone and leave behind the constant partying and drinking because I knew I wanted something better. I had to work really hard to make new friends, to get the things that I wanted.
That is exactly what I’m doing right now.
This morning I was lying on my bed watching Father of the Bride: Part Two. I’ve had a reasonably busy week and on Sunday am heading down south to help out at a kids club for a week, so I wanted to take today to just stay at home and be lazy. As a lot of you know I was meant to spend six weeks in California this summer (you can read more about why that didn’t happen right here), and if that had been the case I would still be there right now with five days left until I came home. But this morning it hit me that if I’d gone to California a lot would be very different in my life. I wouldn’t have joined a new Church yet, I wouldn’t be doing this camp next week, and I wouldn’t have a job yet (did I tell you I’m starting work on August 28th? You know now!). The plans that I’m now working on (that I won’t be talking about for a while) wouldn’t even have crossed my mind and I would still be in avoidance mode, probably missing student life as much as I did on the day I left Stirling.
In the time in which I was meant to be in California I have stepped out of my comfort zone constantly, in a place that scared the heck out of me, and realised that I was able to do this because of the stress and struggles I went through at university.
In Genesis 50 Joseph is talking to his brothers after he has revealed himself to them. They sold him as a slave and told their father he had been killed, because their father favoured him, and now he stands before them, an employee of Pharaoh, and says:
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done…” (Genesis 50:20) (NIV)
All the pain I experienced, all the tests and trials I went through, all the people who told me my faith was stupid have done nothing but given God more and more reasons to build me up. The more pain we experience the more blessings we are given. Not to sound too clichéd, but the hard times only make us stronger and prepare us for the next trial.
The reason I push myself now to go out on the nights when I’d rather stay home and read or watch films, or when I wake up on Sunday morning three hours before Church starts so I can get ready and make it there on time via public transport, is because I know there’s better, and that is because I’ve seen it already. I’ve been through the tough stuff before so I know how to do it this time round. I’ve discovered that that’s the wonderful thing about life: it likes to throw struggles at us but it tends to disguise them to make us think it’s something different every time when, truthfully, it’s the same thing that it was the last time.
The next time life throws a test at you just take a minute to sit down and think if you’ve ever experienced this before; you might be surprised.