Eighteen guys lined the sides of my hallway last night. Seated with their backs against the cinderblocks, they passed cream sodas around and the pop of carbonated beverages filled the air. What followed was a series of thanks and praises as one-by-one these hallmates shared pieces of their hearts. They told stories about late night trips to cookout and joked about the frivolous games they had played. They shared memories and laughed; but it didn’t end there. The men also shared serious words of gratitude toward those who had made their freshman year something special – who had made it something different. Some of those guys came into CIU with baggage. They were worried about fitting in at college, wrestling with anxiety, healing from grief, and
dealing with other issues. Everyone was human. Everyone hurt.
Throughout the year they shared their burdens with each other. Slowly, they learned to trust each other with their shortcomings and fears. They lived life together, and through loving friendships worked through the pains of life. Every two weeks they had a hall meeting to pray, be encouraged, and enjoy time together. Now at their last hall meeting, they reflected back on how much they had grown and about how much the hall meant to them. They were still human, only now they allowed each other to see their hurts, and they hurt together as friends.
Watching this night unfold was most meaningful for myself, Sam, and Jacob. The three of us are upperclassmen serving on Residence Life together. There are a lot of ways to get involved in leadership at CIU, and all of them are wonderful. This year Sam, Jacob, and I decided to do Res. Life together on a freshmen hall. Since August we have worked together to care for the men on our hall. Each of us has spent time praying for and serving this group of students. We do so in a hope that we could be influential in their lives, just like our Res. Life team was to us; of course the practicality is more meetings and event planning than it is life changing experiences. Not unoften we find ourselves discouraged. Not unoften I wonder whether or not it is worth it to care for those around me if I can never see any progress. It is impossible to care for the guys on my hall like I want to, and likewise, no way for them to understand how much we care about them. It’s how I imagine my parents feels about me, but less extreme. A lot of ministry can feel like monotony. Like Moses wandering in the desert wondering if the people would ever realize how special they were to God. The only option is to trust that God is at work in people’s lives, and hope for some evidence of that work.
That’s why last night was so crucial to me. For twenty minutes on a Thursday night, the Lord let us remember why we do Res. Life. We listened to those we loved so much take a minute to thank each other. We saw tangible change in the attitudes of the men who live around us. It wasn’t that everything fell into place and they finally realized all the work we had put in for them. It was so much more than that. I finally realized why I put in all the work I had. At the end of the day it doesn’t much matter if they have any idea how much Jacob and Sam and I love them; rather that they have found rest in the love of God for them this year, and that has changed their lives.