Posted by: Brian Musser | June 23, 2014

Finding Community

Finding Community 20 Things You Will Miss about Drexel:

  1. You will miss free food.  You will miss texts, emails, facebook posts, tweets telling you where free food is located.
  2. You will miss having others assume that you are too busy to help them.
  3. You will miss always having “studying” as a fall back excuse to avoid an awkward invitation.  “I’m sorry I would really like to go on a date you with to the movie about different types of European cheeses but I’m studying.”
  4. You will miss the guarantee that there is always someone interested in hanging out 24/7 at 1 PM in the afternoon or 1 AM in the morning.
  5. You will miss dragons.  Dragons are awesome.
  6. You will miss having people expect you to be poor because you are a college student even though you have $20 in your pocket as opposed to being completely broke your first year after college and now having people expect you to be able to pay for everything yourself.
  7. You will miss the ability to fulfill whims.  If you want to learn poetry, we have a class on that.  If you want to go paintballing, there is a club.  If you want to watch a foreign film it is showing next week on campus.
  8. You will miss student discounts.  You will have to wait 30 years until you get random standardized discounts based on your place in life like that again.
  9. You will miss that guy who lives on your floor that organizes the spontaneous road trips.
  10. You will miss never having to eat alone.
  11. You will miss never having to figure out what to do with free time.  Seriously, when was the last time you had nothing to do?
  12. You will miss the hope that in 10 weeks your schedule could get better.  It never does but there is always that hope.
  13. You will miss having someone objectively inform you on a regular basis if you are performing well or not.  It is amazing to have someone tell you exactly what is expected of you at the beginning of an assignment and then give you immediate feedback based on those expectations.  Grades, you will miss grades.
  14. You will miss being in charge.  After 5 years of leading groups, projects, clubs and teams you will all of a sudden be treated as if you have no clue as to what you are doing even though you are 10 times more experienced than the guy who is actually in charge.  You will be automatically demoted to the absolute low-man (or woman) on the totem-pole and have to wait for opportunities at work, in church and everywhere else to share your knowledge let alone lead something.
  15. You will miss being able to use the idea of still being a student as an excuse for not having all of life’s answers.  Although, you will never have all the answers people expect graduates to pretend like they do at least until your mid-life crisis.
  16. You will miss having a large attractive population of single members of the opposite sex at every event you attend just waiting for you to notice them.
  17. You will miss not having to go out of your way to make friends.  In life after college there are no RA’s required to organize social activities, there are no orientation ice-breakers, there are no corny forced social interactions.  If you want friends you are on your own to find them.
  18. You will miss that group of friends who always had your back no matter what you were going through.  Those folks who seemed to be struggling with the same things.  Sometimes you only have to say one sentence and everybody in the room knows what you are going through.  I can’t find a co-op.  My senior design group is a bunch of slackers.  I have a meeting with financial aid today.  That mouse in my apartment seems to keep getting abnormally large.  It’s week nine already and I haven’t opened my textbook yet.
  19. You will miss that person who over the last five years has turned from a complete stranger into the best friend you ever had.
  20. You will miss community.

Allow me a moment to talk honestly to our soon to be graduates.  Look around you at your friends.  Take a good look.  Take some time and think about all that they have meant to you over the last several years.  Think about all the times they have helped you out of a jam.  Think about all the times they were there for you when Drexel was giving you the “shaft.”  Think about all those conversations about how to navigate the job of becoming grown folk and still respecting your parents.  Think about who was there when you were trying to figure out relationships.  Think about the advice from class scheduling to banking to insurance to things as inane as which food trucks should be tried.  Shed a tear because you will never have friends like this again.  Let me repeat that.  You will never have friends like the ones you have now.  Never again.  Ever.  So you might as well give up now and stop trying.  Because you know me and have learned over the years that most of what I say should be taken sarcastically, you are probably assuming that this is one of those times that I’m somehow joking.  But I’m not.  I’m being serious.  Most of you will look back nostalgically at the friends you made during these last few years as the best friends you have ever had. As part of my job I spend a fair amount of time in churches talking about the tumultuous transition from High School to college.  And for those of you who can remember back that far it was a rather stressful time.  But often the transition out of college can be just as difficult to navigate.  I did a facebook query of what recent graduates that I know and asked about what they had trouble adjusting to the most.  Some joked about staying active on facebook or paying taxes.  Other answers included “being an independent adult,” balancing their schedule, a monotonous work routine and moving back in with Mom and Dad.  But out of the nine graduates that responded at least four of them mentioned the lack of community in some way. “Staying plugged into community” “I’ll +1 the finding community//making time for life outside of work. Being a little more extraverted.” “Being social…after work I didnt want to go out or do anything whereas in school there were activities I participated in due to my affiliation with student orgs/groups” “For me it was Isolation going from an bustling environment of my peers where someone’s always around and having to live back in a small town where you have to drive to see anyone, and you barely have anyone to talk to” Many graduates that I talk to struggle with finding community after college.  It is never going to be the same… so we should just give up, right? But then we are confronted with Scripture.

  • In Genesis 1 we learn that we are created in the image of a God who is three persons so closely connected in community that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one essence.  A true community of three in one.  If we are created in the image of a God who is a Trinity then it is only natural to assume that we were created to be in community.  Our need for community is a natural part of our identity.
  • In Genesis 2 we read God announce that it is not good for man to be alone.  So Adam gets Eve.  Usually we look at this passage as just the installation of the institution of marriage and romantic relationships.  But without that first relationship between Adam and Eve all other human relationships never come to exist.  Without Adam and Eve there are no husbands and wives but there are also no kids, no families, no work groups, no small group Bible studies, no accountability partners, no churches, no Gospel Choirs, no cities and no nations.  Every piece of our social existence finds its roots in the fact that it is not good for man to be alone so therefore God created Adam and Eve.
  • In the next couple chapters of Genesis we see those God-given relationships come tumbling down due to the effects of Sin.  We are once again alone but this time we are alone in a crowd.
  • Then by the end of Genesis throughout the rest of the Old Testament God works the plan of taking a single faithful individual, Abraham, and through him producing a people, a nation, a community from which to bless the entirety of the human race.
  • That blessing comes in the person of Jesus Christ and immediately Christ establishes another community, a redeemed community.  There is something uniquely corporate about the church.  There is something that our western individualism likes to ignore about the fellowship of believers.  You see you are not the bride of Christ.  I am not the bride of Christ.  But we, together, are the bride of Christ.  I am not a priest.  You are not a priest.  But we, together, in community, are a royal priesthood.  We were never meant to be alone.  It is not good for us to be alone.
  • And finally one glorious day when time stands still and we enter into the Shalom of our Creator, we will be gathered around the throne as one people, one body, one community formed out of all peoples never to be alone again.

Therefore in God’s grand scheme community is a part of who we are, who we have been designed to be, who God wants us to be and who we will forever be.  This is why we struggle.  We feel our need for community wrapped around the most inward parts of our soul.  We are on a constant search for it.  And in those moments after college we not only feel the need for community but we also feel the loss of the closest we have ever gotten to true community.  We feel our need and we feel our loss.  So we are grieved. Some of this angst is completely normal.  You will never have friends like the ones you have had at Drexel and that says nothing about the quality of your friends now and in the future.  Each relationship should be judged on its own merit.  But that is also a statement about you.  The four, five, six or seven years that you have been here hanging out with the Dragon have been the most formative years of your life.  You have spent them asking and answering questions about yourself in a way that is distinct from any other time in your life.  You have been wrestling with issues of faith, purpose, meaning and direction.  You have been pondering love, romance, sex and purity.  You have been searching for truth, self-worth, value, goodness and righteousness.  You have been doing the hard work of laying foundations for the basic structure that will inform the rest of your days here on this planet and ultimately your eternity.  You have been finding those principles that will define your career, your relationships, your identity, your lifestyle and your beliefs.  Hopefully, at this moment you are more like yourself than you have ever been before.  And the last couple of years you have made Spirit-filled progress in becoming the person God the Father intended you to be in the shape of Christ. As you were going through this unprecedented growth who was by your side?  Who did you stay up into the early hours of the morning with?  Who was there for you, as you were baring your newly found soul?  You have leaned on friends at this point in your life in ways that you never had to before and in ways that you will never need to again.  These friends are unique because this time in your life is unique.  Other friends will suffer in comparison. That is one of the reasons why we never have friends like this again.  Since you are in a definitive time in your life as you become adults you have been working on your definitions.  One of those definitions is what you will define as true friendship.  What does a good relationship look like?  How should it make you feel?  All subsequent relationships will be judged by the friendships you now have.  These have become your standard.  You will judge your next set of friends as worse than these solely because they will be different from these.  I caution you in this process.  The height at which you hold the great friendships you now have may hinder the opportunity for you to build quality relationships in the future.  Do not question the strength of a future friendship because it does not resemble a previous model.  In your future life your relationship needs will be different and your relationships will develop differently based on those needs.  As you move forward in this new context allow me to give you ten pieces of advice for navigating relationships in the great big scary world out there.

  1. Invite and say yes to invitations:  If many young adults are consciously struggling with relationships and finding community, then you should take a bold step and reach out to that one you find sitting next to you at church or work or elsewhere and ask them to do something.  Someone has to initiate.  It might as well be you.  And related to this, when you are invited to go and do something say yes.
  2. Play host:  If you feel the need for community find a reason to host one.
  3. Play games:  There is a reason why universities, churches, companies and teams all use silly games and icebreakers.  They work.  They work to get past the initial barriers of forming relationships unless upon graduation you suddenly become too “grown up” to do something foolish.
  4. Fewer but deeper: You may need to do a relationship triage.  If you have only a certain amount of non-work time in your life should you distribute it between a bunch of folks or a few?  Do you need ten acquaintances or two really close friends?  Remember your needs will be different.
  5. Be vulnerable:  Your college friends were so close because you were willing to admit to them that you did not have all the answers.  When you walk across that stage in two weeks we don’t hand you the answer key.  There will be plenty of things you will still need to figure out.  Be willing to talk about them.
  6. Go early, stay late:  Whether it is church, or work or some other context with people, we tend to be much more relaxed outside of the programmed hours.
  7. Unpack your bags:  Do not count the days until some future point in time when you expect your circumstances to change.  Invest in relationships here and now, no matter how uncertain or certain future transition is.  You are there at that moment for that length of time.  Choose to be completely present in each of those moments.  Don’t say, “Well, I’m going get promoted in a year and have to move so I really shouldn’t invest in any new relationships.  I’ll just wait until I get to where I am going.”
  8. Don’t limit your possibilities:  Your next friend or community might be someone you never expected.  They may be years older than you.  They may be someone who you used to see as more of an authority figure.  They may be in a completely different place in their life than you are.  You have been trained to just see friends as those in your class or somewhat close to your age or in the same social context as you.  That does not necessarily have to be true in life after Drexel.
  9. Don’t compare:  Don’t compare yourfuture relationships to past ones.  Different is not necessarily worse.
  10. Do something about it:  Don’t just sit there.  Unlike Drexel with our endless activities and required social interactions, in the future you will only find community if you are proactively searching for it.  It won’t accidently happen. You will have to intentionally work at it.

And allow me to leave you with one final Scripture. Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV) And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

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Responses

  1. I really liked this. Thanks Brian!


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