FIND YOUR PEOPLE, FIND YOUR PURPOSE
This summer, thousands of students across the country are preparing to move onto college campuses. Some have already registered for their classes, committed to a major, and have the next decade of their life all mapped out. Others (like myself my freshman year) are leaving home with little more than a duffle bag, a toothbrush, and a dream. For everyone, there’s a sense of anticipation and possibility as they launch off on their own.
Most of our college friends come onto campus asking themselves: “What am I going to do here? What do I want to study? What do I believe? Who do I want to be?”
Those are worthwhile questions. But as I tell my students, there’s an even more crucial question they need to answer first. And their answer will determine the course of the rest of their college experience. Maybe even their entire life (no pressure).
The question is: “Where will I belong?” Or, put differently, “Where my people at?”
Once you find your people, the other answers start to take shape. God doesn’t intend us to sort through the big questions of life all on our own. It’s only by belonging to communities of love and learning, formed in and through Jesus, that we discover all that we were made to be and do.
THE DIFFERENCE Y’ALL MAKES
The story of human history is of God gathering his people and forming them into a community, for their good and His glory. But this communal plan can be tough to notice in our English bibles.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20:
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (ESV)
Or Jeremiah 29:11-13:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (ESV)
We read those passages and hear God speaking to us as individuals: “your (physical) body is a temple. Treat it right! Good food and exercise.” Or “ I have great plans for you (insert your name). Seek me and find me (by yourself).” Every time we read “you”, we think, “God is talking about me!”
But look a bit closer (maybe with the help of a trusted pastor or Christian friend), and we notice that these promises and commands of God are addressed to communities of people.
In Greek and Hebrew, each “you” in those verses is plural. Read them again and replace the “you’s” with “y’all’s.” Do you see the difference? God is speaking to his people about their common share in his promises and plans. He is encouraging them to stick together, to love and encourage one another through difficult times (Hebrews 10:23-25).
Many of my students enter college thinking of Christian community as a safety net. They’re up there, walking on the tightrope of classes and activities, doing their thing, and they want to have a good group of friends around them in case they fall.
But for Christians, community isn’t the net. It’s more like the rope. Community isn’t just a backup plan to fall back on whenever we need it. Belonging to a Jesus-learning, Jesus-loving fellowship is the very thing God uses to move us forward in life.
When Jesus thinks about his plans for you, he’s not just thinking about you. He’s thinking about y’all. About the larger family that he wants to connect you with. About the older brothers and sisters who are going to shape you. About others in the family of faith who are going to challenge you and push you to lean more into his empowering love. He is thinking of those who will weep with you when life gets sad and stressful. And he’s thinking of the people you’ll help and serve along the way.
God loves you too much to leave you to yourself. He knows you need other people, and he is (right now) preparing a place for you. All across the country there are campus ministries like RUF waiting to welcome you. There are churches praying for you, eager to bring you into their fellowship and help you grow and serve. Wherever you will be, Jesus has people there. Look for them when you get to campus. We’ll be looking for you!