We Were Made for Community
Coming to college, one of the hardest things about the adjustment can be finding and building community. Leaving behind the people and friendships you have spent the last eighteen years building is so difficult, because creating depth in relationships really does take time. I remember believing that as soon as I got to college I would immediately make my best friends and have the time of my life with them, and while that was true to an extent, it really did take some time and effort to create friendships with authentic meaning and depth. While finding this sense of community in a new place can be hard, coming to college in a new town with new people is also an incredible and exciting opportunity. The world is yours with endless possibilities of the things you can join, groups you can be a part of, and ways that you can find your place on campus. When I think back on my freshman year at Alabama, I'm not going to lie and say that it was perfect at all times and that I had the best year of my life with absolutely no problems. Freshman year was full of ups and downs with a whole lot of change and new things to adjust to, but I am so beyond thankful for the community that I did find here in Tuscaloosa. At home, I get to rely on my Younglife girls, friends from high school, church, family, and all of our close family friends. Leaving that behind and diving into something entirely new was scary and out of my comfort zone, but I am so happy with what I found on the other side. Tuscaloosa feels like home now and that's all thanks to the community that I have found here.
If you know me, you know I am quite the extrovert. I find so much joy and energy being around other people, but the transition to college made me see the little bit shyer and more anxious aspect of my personality. Especially at the beginning of the semester, I was nervous that people wouldn't like me and I was scared to put myself out there. I'm the type of person to try and handle everything on my own because I don't like having to rely on others, and coming to a new place where I didn't know anyone made it so easy to draw away and keep my problems to myself, but we are made for so much more than that. God created us to be in community with others and to find fellowship and friendship with them. I love the verse Hebrews 10:24-25 and how it states, "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." Surrounding myself with the type of people that are going to encourage me, pour into me, and help me love others better has always been so important to me, and finding this type of community here in Alabama has been the biggest blessing. While greek life might not be for everyone, to say that it has changed my life would be an understatement. Pledging Alpha Chi Omega a year ago has given me some of my closest friends, the best memories, most genuine conversations, and has become a community that I could not be more proud to be a part of.
Joining this sorority made a big campus feel smaller before classes even started, and gave me the absolute best girls to begin to get to know. While I am involved in other things on campus and have found community within my church, this group of women have truly become my home away from home and the people I know I can rely on no matter what. What is important to know is that it didn't happen instantly, and I really do believe that good things take time. Bid day last year I remember being SO incredibly excited and happy, but also so overwhelmed. I had just entered a sorority with around 400 girls, and the thought of getting to know all of them and wondering who my best friends would be made me so nervous. As the weeks progressed, I got to know more and more people and started to find my place. Alpha Chi became an instant community for me so far away from home, and I really don't know what I would have done my freshman year without these girls. While it wasn't like I knew them all immediately, these friendships were built with time over coffee dates at heritage house, midnight food runs on the strip, late night study sessions at the house, heart to hearts on spontaneous road trips, and so much more. While it's okay to not feel a sense of community immediately like you did back home when joining a new group like this, it's important to find a community that you're excited to be a part of with people you are eager to get to know and grow closer to. Whether you join a sorority, team, club, or any other sort of campus organization, get plugged in and find people that you can rely on in this new environment. It can be so easy to draw back and not get involved, but we weren't meant to do life alone.
This past Sunday we had bid day at Alpha Chi and got to welcome home 111 new members into our house. The joy and excitement each active had, eager to make these new girls feel loved and accepted here, gave me such a clear picture of the way community should be. These girls love fiercely, encourage when it is needed most, and carry the weight of your sadness along with them. The opportunity to welcome 111 new girls into this sisterhood has me feeling SO incredibly joyful and excited for them to experience the beauty and goodness in friendship that I have found here. The ear to ear smiles and gigantic hugs on bid day are only a glimpse of how inclusive and loving these girls are, and I could not be more thankful to have this community I call home here.
One of my all time favorite authors, Bob Goff, writes about community and how God gives us the gift of other people in my favorite way. He states, "We keep asking for answers; God keeps sending us people". I love this so much because it really does describe God's heart for us to be in community with one another and how so often, people can be the answer to our prayers. We were never meant to go through this life by ourselves, and no matter where you find community, be intentional about surrounding yourself with people who are going to bring you up, lift your spirits, make you better, and draw you closer towards Christ. And sometimes when you continue to ask God for something and you feel like He isn't listening, take a look around you at the people in your life He has blessed you with. On the other side of that, so often you might be the friend that someone has been praying for and looking in their life. Go find your tribe and love them hard.
If you're a freshman in college feeling just a little too overwhelmed with all the new things happening and changing, know that you are not alone. It's okay to be sad and homesick and to cry and feel like everything is not quite as picture perfect as you imagined it being. Too often we try to put on a happy face to the world and make everyone believe that everything is okay when it's simply just not. It's okay to not feel a sense of community yet and to still be searching for your people. Those friendships and relationships will continue to build with time, and you'll see how certain people will go out of their way to make you feel loved. And on the flip side of that, go out of your way to love your new friends well and let them know you're there. While you are building this community and developing friendships, don't forget about your most constant companion who is always with you. God is eager for you to lean into Him during this transition and to rely on Him to give you courage and strength. Isaiah 41:10 states, "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." I love this verse because it reminds me that no matter what I am going through or what I might be dealing with, He never leaves me and is there for me to turn to. Freshman year is a crazy time but with God on your side you can rest in the fact that you don't have to carry the weight of your problems on your own. Rely on the new community of people around you and your Creator that is there every step of the way.