Story from Travis Harrier
What’s the first thing you ask somebody when you meet them? Perhaps their name, major, or birthday. During my first couple months at college, I often tried to prevent giving away any of that information. That’s correct; I lied about things like my name and date of birth on numerous occasions.
It wouldn’t be hard to find someone from this season in Real Life that would tell you such stories about me. It was quite peculiar to most people; after all, most people don’t lie about the most basic of information. Sometimes I wonder what people thought about me at that point. “Why does this guy lie about basic things like his name or birthday?” “Wouldn’t sharing information about yourself help you make friends?” I was aware of people’s perception of me. But allow me to do something I wouldn’t have done then: give some background about myself.
Up until I was 17, my sophomore year of high school, my dad spent the entirety of my life in the military. It was all I knew growing up. Perhaps you’re aware that military families move more often than the average family. My family was no exception. I can’t recall how many places I’ve lived over the course of my life. That’s not an exaggeration or a figure of speech. I simply cannot remember. I do know that by the time I graduated high school I was on my tenth different public school.
This is all to say I didn’t know much regarding stability and community. Aside from my relationship with my immediate family, which was always quite tumultuous, I never had the mere capacity to have community and long-term relationships. My social life was often non-existent, a product of my nomadic lifestyle.
I can recall many days at different schools eating lunch alone because I knew no one and no one knew me. A viscous cycle of sorts arose. I would tell myself that it wasn’t worth making friends as I knew I’d probably be gone in the next year or so. I eventually began shutting myself off. I became cold and distant. The arbitrary relationship with my family further isolated me, both from my family members as well as the outside world.
I recall having an interest in Christianity sometime in early high school. I’ve always been interested in religion and belief systems. Anything from Christianity to eastern religions to other spiritual belief systems. Why people believe what they believe has always been fascinating to me.
In the days where I so often would be isolated from people, both advertently and inadvertently, I would often listen to podcasts or videos on YouTube that talked about a variety of issues on the religious front. Many of these programs or talks would concern Christianity. I would occasionally read small portions the KJV bible, which I often did not fully understand. I did not have any sort of community that could help me pick a more practical version to read.
For a couple of years, I remained at a place in life where a desire for the truth was ever present. I would read a lot of secondary religious literature. C.S. Lewis had always been a favorite author of mine; even before I became a Christian. Through the secondary literature I read, the content I listened to, and the feeling of a divine presence in my life, I came to believe in Jesus. I decided that Jesus was the truth. Finding and following the truth is the most important thing you can do in life. Jesus was exactly what I was looking for and following him was precisely what my heart desired.
“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”C.S. Lewis
However, I continued to be very private with my beliefs. Being open with my faith was contradictory to my overarching personal philosophy at that time of being closed off. Not to mention, I wasn’t fond of churches or other Christians. I found that many of them were hypocritical and that church was simply awkward; and so, there wasn’t a pressing need for community.
A couple of years passed, and I decide to go to college in Big Rapids. I was still private with my belief in Christianity; in fact, I was really the only one who knew that I was Christian. I was a closet Christian you might say. Before the start of the semester, I had decided to try to open up more and make friends. Going the entire day and saying only a sentence or two became stale and draining as one could imagine. But college provided exactly what I needed: a new beginning.
A week or two went by with no success. Despite my efforts, I made no real friends. This invoked an anxiety in me. I was worried that college was going to be like the rest of my life had been few friends, limited social interaction, and no real community.
I remember praying in sorts around that time that God would work in my life and help to get me in some sort of Community, although admittedly I wasn’t necessarily asking for a Christian community. Through a series of events that I would call divine intervention, I got invited to my first Real Life meeting.
The event was sort of what I expected and in-part, feared: religious. I was quite uncertain as to whether or not I wanted to be a part of this community. I had a real distaste for church and religious people, and for good reason. My heart at that time was certainly hardened.
However, in the early days of my time at Real Life, an older student had begun taking me under his wing. Despite my less than social posture, he would actually talk to me. I wouldn’t initiate conversation, but this guy would still find a way to talk to me. He genuinely cared about what I had to say, and I could sense the authenticity he had. This random guy talking to me like I was his lifelong friend was the most Christian thing anybody had ever done for me.
With the help of my new friend, I began coming to Real Life more often and making more connections. Soon, walls that had been built up many years ago began to fall and I ridded myself of the façade of the past me.
I almost couldn’t believe my circumstances. For the first time in my life, I had real community. People cared about me; their love and passion for Jesus and me was real. After joining Real Life my spiritual life grew exponentially.
I was flat out wrong about the importance of a believer being in community. Community isn’t optional. Rather, community is commanded by God because he knows it’s what’s best for us as a body of believers. My experience with Real Life has reflected that reality. The following verses reflect God’s view of community:
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”(Acts 2:42-47)
I am continuously thankful for the family I have within Real Life. Establishing community in what was previously my nomadic and isolated life has been truly life changing.
Through community, Real Life is radically changing the lives of Christians and non-Christians. God is real and he is present. This is no truer than with Real Life Campus Ministries.
More scripture about community: John 17:20-23, Hebrews 10:24-25, Romans 12:16