As college students, reading and interpreting scripture on a progressive campus can be challenging.
As a self-proclaimed perfectionist and chronic worrier, I frequently look at my life and give myself a lot of “shoulds.”
I’ve felt a heaviness on campus this year, more than in previous ones.
Gratitude has been tough for me lately
As a volunteer for The Aurora Center, I am expected to attend monthly volunteer meetings.
Written by Mara Bowman
On move in day, I walked through the hallways of Territorial Hall—squeezing past piles of cardboard boxes and random futons parents had placed in the already narrow halls—and shoved moving carts back out to the front entrance. The influx of 700 new residents created a couple busy days for me and the other Community Advisors (CAs). It felt simultaneously like a decade and a minute since I had been moving into T-hall myself as a freshman only a year before, and here I was again at the start of another school year; except this time was different.
Once the parents said their long goodbyes, my residents were left to their own devices. Some emerged from their rooms and began talking to each other, asking surface level questions about majors and hometowns. Freshman would probably tell you that one of the biggest anxieties of starting college is finding friends. For many, this is the first time they’ve been thrown into an entirely new and uncharted territory. Last year, I came to the U where I only knew five people out of 30,000 and those five were high school classmates I wasn’t even close with. College can be an amazing time to meet truly genuine people and form life-long connections. However, the intense pressure we feel to establish a friend group can lead to us putting up facades in order to fit the mold of the first friend group we find in a desperation to feel belonging. Sometimes we transform into people we don’t recognize just to fit in.
As a CA it’s a huge part of my job to make impactful connections with my residents. We regularly talk about how to make meaningful connections in staff meetings, and my boss will have weekly check-ins to see how these are developing. I’m supposed to be someone they can come to with their roommate issues, questions about school or just feel comfortable talking openly with. From the comfortable distance of one year of college experience, and in my new role as a CA, I got to watch freshman interact in ways that were all too familiar. The fragility of the new connections prevents the presence of vulnerability in our relationships. Maybe it’s trying to hide the fact that you’re homesick, or that you regularly struggle with a mental illness, or that you don’t love college life as much as everyone said you would. Instead we have to appear perfectly put together. The absence of real spaces means these deep parts of ourselves are bottled up inside, weighing us down. We become too busy trying to cover up these very real conflicts in our lives, that we’re too afraid to be real.
Being honest and real about our beliefs and struggles is a conflict that has existed for, well, forever. Martin Luther was a guy who had some issues with the Catholic Church. In fact, he got so fired up about it he nailed a list of his grievances on a door, all 95 of them, a bold move that we’re celebrating the 500th anniversary of this year. His willingness to be open about his discomfort, and the dissonance he felt in his beliefs, led to a formation of an entirely new way of looking at God: through a lens of grace and forgiveness.
Luther’s new ideas weren’t exactly welcomed with open arms. The Catholic Church didn’t throw him a parade and toss roses at his feet, they were actually pretty unhappy with him. Being real sometimes means taking a risk that people won’t like who you are, or what you have to say—a step that can be intimidating and scary. Luther took the initiative to create a new space in which he could be real about his ideas, and find common ground with others who shared his frustrations. Participating in spaces where everything about ourselves is celebrated and accepted—even if we don’t all agree on it—is vital to our spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being.
God knows who you are. God loves and accepts the parts of us we have a difficult time admitting to others, or even ourselves. Immersing ourselves in real spaces permits us to see the infinite bounds of God’s love and God often manifests that reminder in people we find sitting next to us in these real spaces.
Real spaces surround us with people who celebrate the people God has made us to be and the people we are striving to become. LCM has been that source for me; it has challenged me to be honest about who I am, showed me the boundless acceptance of a community that strives to grow, and challenges our ideas of who we are and who God is in the world today.
Luther didn’t upset the Catholic Church so he could sit at the cool kids table. He relished in his own vulnerability and was real about his beliefs. Be real about who you are and find spaces that support you in moments of vulnerability. When we practice a life of authenticity, and surround ourselves with people who celebrate the people we are and the people we want to become, we’ll hopefully find a life of joy.
Real spaces combat a world that tells us we’ll never be enough. Real spaces are a celebration of the “city kids and country kids, introverts and extroverts….the Engineers and English majors, questioning and certain, poor and rich.” All are a part of the body of Christ. Actively seek out spaces where you are reminded of the boundless acceptance and love God has for you each and every day.
Hello amazing, wonderful, human!
I hope I find you in good health, a happy spirit, and excitement for the upcoming year. There will be a lot going on when you arrive on campus, and it will be beyond exciting to get started on your path to the “real world,” but let me tell you something in advance—there’s going to come a moment when you realize that you’re exhausted and you need a break.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. It’s something that, I will admit, I had help discovering. It’s a group that is full of so much passion and energy but also creates the perfect time to finally Pause. From exploring your dorm and running around all three banks during Welcome Week to getting lost on campus and having to stop someone and say, “Excuse me but could you direct me to ___,” I know it will be a long, tiresome, exciting, funny, stressful adventure, and you’ll be in desperate need for some place to just stop, take a deep breath, and relax.
Look no further—Lutheran Campus Ministry, aka LCM, is the place for you! The first Wednesday night I went to worship, an hour service called Pause, was during a thunderstorm. It was maybe the third week into the school year and I arrived at Grace University Lutheran Church drenched and stressed out. I was still making the transition from living at home with my family to living at school. My pastor from my home church recommended LCM to me, and I hoped that in my time of need for familiarity, I could find a bit of peace.
I realized I was walking into an unfamiliar space by myself during the third week they had already been gathering, and I thought, “What were you thinking???” Nevertheless, I did it anyway. I was greeted at the door and from there to the sanctuary, I was welcomed at least four times before I took a seat next to a stranger. We ended up making conversation and the next thing I know, I found myself singing Mountain Vespers, which were already near and dear to my heart. It was so special to experience walking into somewhere brand new, not really knowing what to expect, but feeling right at home. After the service, we gathered downstairs to enjoy conversation and treats and I found myself signing up for the LCM fall retreat (with people I had now known for a total of two hours—and by the way, the retreat was a blast)!
I came to Pause hoping to find peace in a time of transition, but I found much more than that. I was welcomed into a community of grace and hope and curiosity. The night I decided to see what LCM was all about, I found something so special that once I found it, I never left.
May you find peace when you need it most and happiness always.
“Come now, O Prince of Peace, make us one body. Come, O Lord Jesus, reconcile your people. Come, Hope of Unity, make us one body. Come, O Lord Jesus, reconcile all nations.” –Evangelical Lutheran Worship Book, #247
I have found this song passing through my mind many times throughout this semester, and it seems even more appropriate now in the season of Advent than ever. Both personally and as a part of larger groups, we have felt much brokenness and division lately. Whether this pain stems from political uncertainty or hateful vandalism, we acknowledge our need for healing and unity. While we may tend to look to ourselves for answers or try to ignore the problem, this text points us upward. People are doing amazing and beautiful work to serve others and create bridges between peoples, but we also know that this work can only be perfected and completed through Christ. We turn to God of guidance in work, and God turns to us to do this work, and we rest in the knowledge that someday Christ will in fact “reconcile all nations.” In this season of advent we wait, we long, we hope, and we trust that something beautiful is coming.
Come Lord Jesus.
Written by Julie Wall (LCM Servant Leader)
By Student Servant Leader, Lauren Zima
This past Wednesday, I slept right through my alarm, twice. I was late for a meeting where I was a speaker, my car wouldn’t start, I had to stay late at work, and I unknowingly tried to submit an assignment that was due the night before. And by the time I finally flopped down on the couch at 10pm, a little frazzled and a lot exhausted, I realized I’d forgotten to Pause. Yes pause, literally, I’d been on my feet the entire day, but also the LCM Wednesday night service. The one point in my week where I feel confident to drop everything, clear my mind, and spend an hour just being instead of thinking and worrying about everything else on my plate.
This past Wednesday was an exceptionally bad and poorly timed day, but remembering to pause even if it’s not for Pause (haha), is a skill we, as college kids, need to make a top priority. Remembering to pause is both literally and figuratively, the best way to regroup after a long day, catch up with old friends, or take a moment for just yourself to be present and aware of what’s happening around you.
For me, the chance to pause is the chance to step out of the bubble of college and the mass chaos that it can be. After the first psych out of a week that is syllabus week; a cruel concept that tricks you into thinking you will have enough time on your hands to watch an entire Netflix series a week, see your friends every day, and spend hours at the gym, you quickly realize that college is A LOT. It’s a lot of class time, studying, stress, and exhaustion. But after syllabus week is done and you’re settling into your routine of how you personally do college, it’s critical to take time to pause. Whether it be taking the time to watch a Netflix episode (yes episode, singular), go for a bike ride down the gorgeous Riverside trail, or come, literally, to Pause, finding out the best way for you pause and regroup is perhaps one of the best skills you won’t learn in school.
So this month I urge you, regardless of the dozens of to do’s on your list, or items on your plate; to figure out how you pause, and take the time once a week to do it. It’ll be the best thing you do all week. (Unless of course there’s gopher game day!!)
To those friends I have yet to meet,
Coming to the U as a freshman I knew that joining a faith community was a priority for me. I grew up in an incredible church and was eager to find a place for me here at school. Throughout my freshman year I dabbled in different faith groups, never finding somewhere that I really fit.
Transitioning to college is already difficult, as you begin to find out how to balance a more independent life, and I was hungry for a strong community of faith. I longed for a place where I was comfortable but challenged and growing at the same time. My first encounter with LCM was during the spring of my freshman year but due to my job I was not able to really get plugged in. However, my brief encounter inspired me to really commit to getting involved that coming fall. One of the first nights I attended Pause I tried to slide quietly into a pew near the back. My plan to not be noticed was foiled by an amazing student name Heidi as she quickly plopped down next to me and before I knew it, we had exchanged numbers with plans to get coffee. Simply connecting with Heidi made me feel noticed and valued as a member of the LCM community.
For me, LCM stands out among groups as there is a strong emphasis on authenticity, on curiosity and on building relationships rooted in faith. The folks that make up LCM are some of the most welcoming, kind-hearted, passionate, and inspiring people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing and I’ve truly found my fit. Could LCM be where you fit too? Come connect with us and let us discover one another’s stories. 🙂
I’ll be keeping an eye out for you, like Heidi did for me…