Ten years later, why does it matter?
I imagine that that question is floating out there among those following my little Lenten cleansing activity here, particularly yesterday's letter. It's a question I'm asking myself, that's for sure.
College is an incredibly formative time for many people. Some may argue that there's a certain superficiality to it all; that college students don't live in the "real world," whatever that is. Instead, the argument goes, there's a bubble quality to college life; an ignorance of real problems Out There. Students are preoccupied with their own drama and each others' immaturity, even as they're just beginning to discover themselves. All of this takes place while away from home for perhaps the first time.
I would largely agree with that. There was an absurd quality to what I got caught up in during my college years. Some of what we put each other through at that age is only slightly better than what we put each other through during high school.
However, I balk at how far to take the superficiality argument. While college can be a self-involved time, it's also a time where newfound independence, hormones, and laying the groundwork for a career combine in a time of what is hopefully growth and maturation from self-involvement to self-actualization. The former can be egotistical and unhealthy for oneself and others, the latter exhibits a combination of temperance, awareness, and assertiveness without arrogance.
The college experience can greatly influence how or whether one develops into a self-actualized being. Classes, friends, and campus groups can all affect this.
By my junior year of college, I was involved in two campus ministry groups: an on-campus house program called the House of God's Servants (HOGS), and a non-denominational Campus-Crusade-loosely-affiliated ministry called Campus Fellowship. A lot of the details can be found in the same post to which I link back every couple of months. I was also in a fraternity and involved in the theatre.
All these things together made for a hectic schedule. There was give and take, but I tried to balance them as best I could. Even after everything went down between myself and some other Christians on campus, however, there was some part of me insisting that I continue with these groups.
The first meeting of the Campus Fellowship planning team that following fall, I walked in with a scowl on my face. I remember it pretty distinctly, actually. Even then, some part of me realized that this group had passed me by, but I persisted because I was studying to be a pastor, and this had to have been what people studying to be pastors were supposed to do in preparation. Even after leaving the group a few weeks into the semester, I eventually decided that I needed to come back. After the disagreements, the change in direction, the lack of passion, I thought I needed to continue. That kills me. That kills me.
With the HOGS, it was a little more complicated: I didn't have a great experience in leadership my junior year and did ponder letting it go, but I convinced myself to come back my senior year because, again, that's what future pastors do.
This is the crux of my regret about those groups and about that time. I don't regret how relationships turned out: I'm friends with some of those with whom I disagreed, and I'm content not to speak with others (and as far as I know the feeling is mutual). I regret continuing with a burden that I should have set down but didn't out of some pre-ministerial sense of obligation.
Picture a guy involved with the Young Democrats who is aspiring to go into politics but who doesn't agree with the direction that the majority wishes to take. Picture a young woman who wants to go into music but whose sense of enjoyment in show choir is paralyzed by disagreements with other members. Letting go of these groups doesn't change these people's career paths. It doesn't even change the relationships with the many who are involved in these groups with whom they get along and whose friendships they treasure. This particular activity just doesn't work for them any more; it doesn't bring them joy or help them grow. So let it go.
"Well," some may say, "now you know something about overfunctioning and saying no." Indeed I do. And the usual statements about being who you are today because of past experiences and all that other crap applies here, too.
It's just that I wonder who I'd be today if I'd just given up campus ministry. That's what all this is about.
Maybe in the long run, not a whole lot would be different. I still would've gone to Eden, married Coffeewife, been called to a church, been ordained, had Coffeeson, continue the same relationships on Facebook and elsewhere with people from that time of my life. But I also would've been able to say, "I quit something related to my career and calling where my involvement was no longer nurturing for me or others."
The next time around, I hope that I can do that.