I listen to the rain roar on the roof of the university library; I watch it pour outside of the big wall windows. And maybe that is something that you can get in a big school, or really any big city with a sizeable library and no drought—but everything always seems a little more precious within this community.
Now, I’ve had my share of bad days, lazy days, forgetful days, hectic days, meeting-filled days, got-nothing-done days, and rainy days. But until I came and immersed myself in the community of Christian peers, I probably couldn’t appreciate the rain as much as I do.
I go to a private Christian university in a little college town where it’s actually pretty difficult to find someone who isn’t a Christian. Ironically enough, you’re most likely to find them on my campus—a place that states it is built on the Cornerstone, Jesus Christ. But what has rattled me most isn’t the population of atheists/agnostics/etc on a campus of believers—but what those professing believers believe about the person of Jesus.
In my time here at the university, I’ve been involved in multiple ministries, but none so precious to me as a summer program that allowed me to travel for nine weeks in the deep south doing children and youth ministry. This wasn’t just Sunday school; we walked into some very hurting places with some kids who don’t get to pursue a private school degree and relax in big libraries from day to day. And one of their stories couldn’t leave me if I wanted it to:
A high school girl (who developed the habit of being very closed off) opened up to me over the span of a few days. One night, she relayed to me in detail some self-harm that she continually engaged in—and this was her first disclosure of it. While I wasn’t surprised by the admittance, I promise you that it is never easy to hear about another person’s pain.
I had to leave the next morning for the next location, and I remember being in a panic because I had to not only break the trust of this girl and pass on the information she gave me to someone who could help her much more than I could, but I then had to leave and potentially never see her again when I was just told about habits that threatened her life. I was scared, and I was hurting in such a Galatians 6:2 kind of way:“Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
But I remember packing up to leave that morning and standing outside watching the sun beat down. While the south is hotter than the sun during the summer, it also seems like it’s wetter than the ocean some days. But on that morning, the sky was clear and my heart was heavy. I prayed something very simple; I told Jesus that I trusted him, and that I knew He had her in His hands. I told Him that it wasn’t up to me to change her mind or convince her to do something different, and that I knew I couldn’t even if I stayed around for another year trying to help her; in all my pleading with her, I couldn’t even convince her to seek help on her own. And then I had a request—I asked for rain. I was crying, and I felt glued in place. I asked for rain as a sign that He would take care of her and that she would be okay.
As you could guess by the faithfulness of ages past, clouds rolled in, and it began to pour. If you thought I was crying before, I couldn’t even stay standing at that point. He made it pour and pour and pour—and then He told me—“It will be okay.”
So, as it pours in little Wilmore, I remember that promise. He wanted me to understand that even without my hands fumbling around in every situation, even without my insightful advice and love, even without my help, He could do His job. And in the context of the worry I face on a day-to-day basis about the people who believe strange and (what I perceive to be) untrue things about the Savior, this all leads me to the second thing that I’ve learned while attending a Christian college:
Not everyone believes in the same Jesus that you do.
That may seem a little out of left field, but I want you to know: it’s okay. There are little theological differences, and then there are chasms between believers; but you have to trust that the same God who is instructing you is instructing them too; we’re all in process, working out what we believe through trial and error. And if there is only one Way, Truth, and Life, then we’re going to find Him together, not fight it out to see who can get there first. If we say we love Jesus, why are we tearing apart relationships and entire churches because we can’t figure out the “right” way to pray, or worship, or ponder the trinity? If we say we follow Jesus, why isn’t He the main concern?
Before I came to this school, I honestly didn’t know what Calvinism was. I didn’t know who John Wesley was or why in the world it seemed like everyone had read The Chronicles of Narnia—but I knew Jesus. I knew that I was entering into a community of people who claimed the name of Jesus and were proud of it. And when someone (many someones) asked me what denomination I hailed from, I always said I didn’t know; all I knew was that I loved Jesus. While my lack of denominational knowledge had a lot to do with a non-protestant upbringing, I knew that that was not the question that needed to be asked when students entered here.
There are Christians who believe that the Holy Spirit has stopped working in the earth. There are Christians who believe that lifting your hands in worship is distracting and disrespectful. There are Christians who believe that sometimes God teaches you to deal with your sin instead of delivering you from it. And while I could argue with all of those Christians for hours (and I, to a fault, have done so), there is one detail of this whole “Christianity” thing that we fail to focus on: Do you love the Lord? Do you know Him? Do you want Him? Do you believe that He loves you and wants you as well?
Those are the relationship-defining questions, and they’re the ones that matter—because He desires relationship from us, not theological perfection. He desires for us to know Him, not just know everything about Him. The details get to be worked out with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). And when we ask for Him, He gives Himself to us. Never will we ask for the living Jesus and be handed a stone by Him (Matthew 7:9). He loves to show Himself to us. And who am I to say I have it all figured out? Who am I to say that I’ve somehow become the Millennial Theologian? Who am I to say that I have nothing left to learn?
The danger is believing that we have it so right that it has become our job to correct everyone else—I have been here. It’s a judgmental, hurting, isolated place. Is it wrong for Christians to discuss and think critically together? Not at all. Is it wrong to try and show someone how your relationship with God may be different from theirs? No—celebrate the diversity in which our Jesus meets with us. But making someone feel theologically small will not make them more saved.
Yet still, my Jesus has all power and might and loves to partner with us—He does work in us to spread the gospel. He does love to use us in each other’s lives, and He loves to call us iron to sharpen one another (Proverbs 27:17). But He is so much better at correction than we are. He is the One who turns hearts—it isn’t at all about our persuasive debating. Sometimes, it’s simply about His timing.
So, after chapel, when I hear my fellow students fighting about how a speaker interpreted a scripture, I remember grace. I remember all of the times when I used a scripture incorrectly, but was corrected by the One who breathed it. I remember when I told others that He was someone else in my confusion, and He faithfully showed me who He really was.
There’s grace for the misunderstood places. But if we’re all seeking the same Jesus, there is peace that we shouldn’t negate by fighting with one another, knowing that He sees each individual heart.
And honestly, He does His job a lot better than you could; He is continually, faithfully whispering in the confusion, “It will be okay.”
Author : Molly Bramble