This is part 2 of my series of W&L posts and picks up in September/October of my first year at college. Make sure to read A Glimpse Back in Time: Part 1 first!
Radical ideas such as this one (praying together for at least 5 hours a week) are really nothing special, especially among young and zealous Christians. What is special, though, is when radical ideas are followed by radical behaviors. When four people plan to pray together daily and then actually do it. And we did. God gave us supernatural commitment, and we held prayer meetings every single night around 8 or 9 in Brandon’s room. Occasionally, we invited other people, but usually, it was just the four of us.
It was a simple thing really: meeting, praying, and talking. But it began to awaken a new hunger in me. Suddenly, I wasn’t just talking about following Jesus, I was actually talking TO Jesus. At first, I was mystified. Chris would tell us stories, about crazy missionaries who were sold out for God and about revivalists who saw crowds of people healed and saved. But most importantly he told us his own stories, about encountering God, hearing Him speak, and falling in love with Jesus. And although I’d come into college believing I’d pretty much gone as deep into my faith as I could go, I soon realized that I’d barely scratched the surface. Kind of like when I was younger and got really excited about the jolly music coming from the pink and white truck, completely missing out on the fact that the friendly driver would give me delicious ice cream if I would ask (and pay, of course, but that’s beside the point). Anyway, I started to realize that I was missing out on the best part of following Christ: actually knowing Him and His love for me. I saw in Chris a passion for Jesus that I hadn’t known existed, and I began to pursue it for myself.
I started praying hard for my friends and my campus, but mostly I examined my own heart. For the first time, I could actually feel God’s love for me so strongly that I really desired to spend time with Him, and not just so I could mark my daily devotional time off my to-do list with my colorful highlighters. I’d finish my homework early so I could slip away to read my Bible or sing love songs with my flute on the banks of the Chessie Trail. And I’d get up before my roommate to pray in private without the constant nagging of “Is she watching me?” During those months, God began to whisper to my heart. Or perhaps I just finally learned to listen to His still small voice.
Since those days, God has never seemed quite so close, but that sweet intimacy still drives me to pursue Him. It was a taste of eternity, where God will be by our side and we will just soak Him in. The rays of His presence drenched in Shekinah glory and agape love. It’s gonna be awesome.
During that first semester, God marked my heart. He talked to me and loved me and answered prayers in ways that could not be coincidences. One of my favorite stories is about a guitar. You see, before I came to college, I dabbled in guitar. I learned a bit during my gap year as Jon Beard taught Honduran kids in Spanish, and I took a few lessons from Crystal Gray before starting school. So as I was packing for W&L, my dad suggested I bring the guitar along. I told him it was silly; I could barely play, and I’d never have time to practice. But we finally agreed that, if there was room in the car once I’d packed everything else, I’d bring the guitar. And there was. So I brought the mediocre guitar that my mom had bought on Ebay, and it sat in my dorm room for weeks. Meanwhile, although I didn’t know it, Chris was praying for an acoustic guitar. He had been leading worship for years but had no instrument with him at W&L. So I had a guitar that I couldn’t play, and Chris could play but had no guitar. And once we made the connection, my guitar became the answer to his prayer and the instrument that we used for worship for our prayer meetings for nearly 3 years (until it fell in the Prayer Room a few months ago and the neck snapped…a sad day).
Anyway, there were lots of stories like that, and it was exciting. Every day I was eager to spend time with God, to share my faith with people in the dining hall, and of course to go to Brandon’s room in the evening where I knew I would learn something new about God. Meeting with Chris, Brandon, and Daniel was one of the highlights of each day. They became my closest friends, and our little community began to extend beyond our prayer time. We ate together, shared about what God was teaching us, and even attempted an off-campus adventure, which was thwarted by a flat tire in Brandon’s car and resulted in pumpkin carving on the Colonnade instead of the much more exciting Blue Ridge Parkway.
But around December, Chris announced that we should halt the meetings to seek God individually and to pray about something bigger. I didn’t understand, and I didn’t like it, but that month before Christmas break was good for me. It proved that my new desire for God wasn’t all about the prayer meetings or my new friends. It was all about loving Jesus, and I sought him just as hard when we stopped meeting. I found rooms in the school where I could sneak away to pray away from the curious gaze of my roommate (which was very effective except for the one time when I was praying in a music room and someone walked in to play their cello...awkward!) Anyway, based on Chris’ suggestion, I began to pray that God would open the doors for us to start a Prayer Room, a place where students could come to worship, pray, and meet with God any day of the week. And soon after Christmas break, that’s exactly what He did.
To be continued…