When I think about my personal experience in the community here at CIU, there are two specific days that stand out in my mind; two moments where I felt loved and cared for in the middle of deep brokenness. What I love about these moments is that they involve a group of friends who I’ve grown close to over the last few years and who know me well.
When I was a sophomore, I went through a particularly hard experience. I had been pouring into a friendship that ended unexpectedly and left me grasping for answers that I couldn’t find. I remember coming back to my room one evening and finally breaking down with two of my friends. I don’t know what plans they had for their evening, but I know they gave up their own preferences and “to-do” lists to
spend time with me when I needed it most. They didn’t just sit with me as I cried; they cried with me. They held me and felt my frustration, fears, and hurt alongside me. I’ve found that being a member of a community actively seeking to be like Christ has opened a door for me to experience sacrificial love that is rarely found anywhere else.
My junior year brought a whole new set of challenges and joys as I stepped into leadership as an RA. I had a hall full of wonderful freshmen girls who were excited about life in college. However, there was one particular situation which required a lot of my time, attention, and energy. I had to sacrifice building relationships with other girls, time with my friends, and taking care of myself to invest in this one person. As the year went on, I became increasingly drained and began questioning not only my ability but God’s goodness as well.
There was an early morning during this time when a group of girls from the Residence Life staff gathered together to pray for each other and our campus. I was able to share with them the reality of what was going on in my life and in my heart. They took the time to pray over me for wisdom, compassion, peace, and to actively rely on the Lord. God has been good in showing me fruit from this experience. I may never see all of it, but I know that every moment of my challenging junior year was a moment He called me to and I’ll rejoice in the grace He showed me in the middle of it.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it is that community is sacrificial. Community involves giving up of your own desires and comforts for the joy of loving others. There is a lot of personal benefit that comes out of being in a community: friends, fun things to do, memories, laughter, and growth; but a real community is really about loving others.
As I write this, it strikes me that my best memories of my community have been during the hardest seasons of my life. As you grow closer to others, life becomes richer. It also grows messier and harder because life is messy and hard. Even in the hard seasons, life is so much richer when we experience the grace that deep community has to offer. At CIU, that looks like a lot of prayer, encouragement, grace, and being pushed toward Christ.
If anything has shaped me into who I am today, it is the grace of God and the deep community I’ve experienced in my four years at CIU.
"If anything has shaped me into who I am today, it is the grace of God and the deep community I’ve experienced in my four years at CIU."