Eighteen days ago I packed up my car and drove away from the only city I’ve ever called home. I was offered a job working in the Chaplain’s Office at Wheaton College, so I live here now. In the Midwest. I live in the Midwest. I remember sensing I was moving into a new season about a year ago and I prayed something like this: “God, I just want to follow you and alleviate some of the suffering in the world. I’ll go anywhere! San Diego, the Bay Area, Denver, Seattle—even Vancouver—I’m wide open.”
The next thing I knew I woke up in suburbia surrounded by brilliance. I’ve already discovered Wheaton College students are some of the sharpest, wittiest, most earnest students in the country (the kind of students I sought out for group projects in my day). They will leave the world better than they found it, and I’ve been given the privilege of offering a safe space for them to keep it super real in a community that hasn’t always done “real” well.
I know this because I attended Wheaton my freshman year. I was recruited to play basketball and I had to sit out the second half of the season because I failed fitness class. I failed fitness class because gay Christian angst (along with doubt and despair) made getting up for an 11am class feel impossible. My perception was that I was the only student on campus that wasn’t memorizing entire books of the Bible while taking 18 hours of upper level coursework and leading early morning discipleship groups. It wasn’t until years later that I learned I hadn’t been alone. Now, after a decade of being shaped by God’s grace, I’ve been given the opportunity to tell students in similar places they’re not alone either.
I get to walk with them in a vulnerable season of their lives and tell them God sees them, and he loves them right where they are. I get to tell them He doesn’t love the future version of them, or the version they wish they were, or the version their parents wish they were—He loves them. And if my interactions here are anything like the relationships I built in West Dallas, then the community will have a much bigger impact on me than I’ll have on them. Hopefully Christ will capture our imagination in fresh ways, giving us insight into the story of redemption He wants to write through our lives both individually and communally.
It’s been a bit since I last posted and it will be a minute before I post again. Sometimes I write posts in my imagination when I’m trying to forget I’m jogging on a September day that feels like Dallas in the dead of winter, but those imaginary posts won’t make it to the blog until I establish some new rhythms. Stay tuned for sporadic stories here and there though. I’ve landed among some people who actually practice the kind of hospitality most of us simply talk about, which quickly calmed my fear of loneliness that surged the moment I left Dallas. It’s been deeply moving and reminded me, once again, that God is always faithful to show up and surprise me in new ways in new seasons. It seems worth ending with a note about our participation in that: if you’re opening up your life and home to others in a way that creates a place for people to belong, know your messy house looks like a cathedral to those you welcome.