Tag Archive: Temporary

We often aren’t what our memories remind us to be.  But this time, I’ll enjoy the exception.

I am no conspiracy buff.  However, when a friend of mine wrote some comments about an event that we both attended recently, I was spurred into action about a conspiracy that we both shared.  When I attended my alma mater, I was greeted with a situation where I often found myself wondering (even aloud) how easy the world seemed to be compared to what appeared to be the norm with people after their golden age during college.

Socially, most people tend to develop strong relationships during their university days.  Many of us have had that great memory of someone leading a large group of freshmen into a lecture hall and hearing something similar to the following:  “Look to your right.  Now, look to your left.  One of you will not be here at the end of your four years.”  That concept is an eye-opening proposition to students who often had 4 years looking at the same set of faces in almost every class together.

When I attended the same university with my friend, whose blog may be found here:  Reflections on the Spirit of the Age, we were thrust into a very unique situation.  When students attend a college together, there is an artificial but very tangible connection that can form.  People begin holding dearly to one another for support, camaraderie, guidance, wisdom, and the like because they have stepped out from the safety of their safety nets for the first time.  Everything conspires as it were to drive people to make quick and lasting connections.  Some, for mere days and weeks, others for a lifetime.  That is why the experience drives us to sororities, fraternities, social groups, religious organisations, and the like.  For Hunter and myself, we found a great refuge within the people of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship.  Both of us, I am sure, would not be who we are without that organisation and the wonderful friends we have because of our time there.  The connections are significant and life-changing for both of us.

When you’re lost in a city you’re not familiar with, looking for the most basic of things and failing, anyone who is a friendly face will make a bond that is deeper than most.  I am reminded of the time that I was walking through a very crazy airport in the northern midwest, and I  barely overheard someone having a very difficult time explaining with a thick Ukrainian accent that they were lost.  I being a moderate Russian language speaker at the time, walked right over and introduced myself in Russian, and proceeded to receive a big bear hug from them.  (This, by the way, is not the typical response to a stranger in their culture.)  I was instantly a friend, and together we were until our planes tore us apart.

That is what comes naturally to most people in a crisis situation.  Make no mistake, when people begin to attend the university, it’s a crisis situation.  A person’s whole world view becomes challenged in a way that cannot be quantified.  It doesn’t happen normally in life, nor as my astute friend put,

“The world that we inhabited at that time has passed away.  It will never exist again.”

It is that way because it’s an artificial storm.  People put together in that time and place have little choice other than to bond together in ways they would not accept as normal outside of the situation.  Yet, it happens to us all to some degree.  Remembering back, I can see myself getting to know people who came across my path in ways it would take months and years longer had we not been together in college.  For some reason in the world outside of that educational crucible we don’t allow ourselves that honesty and openness… I wish I knew why.

My only thought is about this:  why do we change when we leave?  Perhaps it is the realisation that we only had a small amount of living that came before college, and thus it was easy to share.  Perhaps it is too difficult to explain, the realisation that we had a large amount of living that we went through during our time as students and you had to be there.  I don’t know, really.  My thinking is that it is the conspiracy of the natural order of things.  Without some sense of impending change or crisis, human beings do not choose vulnerability as their default stance.  People don’t band together unless there exists a cause or focus.

As Hunter remarked, Intervarsity allowed us to share in a special time in our lives that way.  We had a cause and a focus that brought us together, our relationships with and in Christ.

Like being dropped into a busy airport barely speaking the language only to hear a friendly voice, we experienced a great gift.  The ability to strip through the nonsense and become very real and connected in a short amount of time is not what most of us do.  For much of my life however, my approach to people was very much like that of those who are in college.  When you get used to being in places for a short amount of time, you learn that those small amounts of time matter a great deal.  So, you don’t let an opportunity pass you by to make a bond.  Strong and real connections with other people are things we all crave, but we often make things so very convoluted to get to that point.

Hunter’s comments challenge me as my life becomes more rooted and more permanent, to not lose that gift, that desire to be connected with others.  It will not go unnoticed, my friend.

We spent time with friends and reminisced and reconnected.  It reminded me of how easy it used to be to make real and lasting relationships, and how very blessed I am that so these wonderful friends are still tethered to me after these many years.  Intervarsity was extremely special to me during that time.  I have people who I consider family stretching from my home in Florida to the other side of the world because of people choosing to be real, vulnerable, and connected.  Here’s to bucking against the natural order of things, and for those oh so special times when all we had were the friendly faces of the people in the storm with us.  I love the idea that we share a friendly conspiracy about the age of our youth…

Let’s continue to share the conspiracy, eh?

In lifesaving, you’re taught that when someone is drowning, not to come at them from the front.  If you do, the person you want to help is just as likely to cause you to drown.  You’re taught to dive deep down below them, surface behind them, and grab them.  Then, when you have them completely secured, can you lean back and let them float on top of you as you guide them to the shore.

I’ve always enjoyed that image.  That concept is what I’ve always understood to be the appropriate way to go about helping someone in a desperate situation.

Let’s face it, when we’re desperate, we’ll flail and scream and claw and do anything to keep from falling apart.  We’ll even take those closest to us down with us.  If you’ve never been in a situation like that, you really have no idea the amount of panic that overwhelms you.  Your mind seems to have a loud siren blaring, your body tenses so hard that you end up having muscles bruise or tear just from the stress, and your heart races almost coming out of your chest.  (and that’s only if you’re the one trying to rescue someone else)  It’s absolutely terrifying, and if you think even for a second, oftentimes you will freeze up and not act at all.

But, if someone isn’t drowning.  If someone isn’t quite on the edge of desperation, it doesn’t mean that help is any easier to give.  Most of the time in life we have long, lingering, malignant types of suffering that leads to dire situations.  Chronic places where our inability to overcome something, get past something, no longer be bound to something eats away at the person that we are until we’re raw, aching, and suffering.  Someone once said that the human condition is defined by suffering and trying to alleviate that suffering.  In many ways, I have to agree.

Whether it’s by choice or not doesn’t seem to matter.  People all have the same difficulty processing the age-old question, “How do I get out of this?”  When we hurt very long about the same issues, we develop some of the most intricate defensive and coping mechanisms.  If we were drowning, there wouldn’t be any subterfuge.  We’d flail and flail and reach out for anything.  However, if it’s not immediate, we can silently sit and watch the waters rise around us.  For years, people can see and feel the waters of desperation over aches and pains in our lives rising at our feet. 

An image that captures this for me is seeing the eroded cliffs at the oceanside.  The waves can be as gentle as can be, but eventually they start wearing at the edge and digging underneath.  Eventually the waves’ repetition makes staying on the cliff above hazardous for fear of it collapsing.  Everyone has been there, fearing things in our lives will fall apart and crumble.

We get really good as swiping the waters away from us, or propping ourselves up on something to convince us that the swells aren’t going to get very high.  We even get used to being wet.  We compensate, and learn to live with it.  Extending this metaphor is pretty easy, but I feel there is something here to think about.  When you notice the waters around someone else rising, how do you point it out without getting caught up in either the chaos brewing or the defensive mechanisms we use to delude ourselves that things are okay?

When I care for someone else who seems to be daily flailing or despairing, it’s difficult for me not to step up and say or do something.  After having pains taken away from me over the years, I long for others’ pain to go away.  Amazingly enough, I happen to know Who does His best work in us when we have nowhere else to turn.  Yet, my response often seems to be as if someone is drowning right now.  Immediate.  Matter of fact, and blunt.  Wham.

That doesn’t work nearly as well as one would think.  Trust me. 

But I’m learning to use the second part of the lifesaving lessons, that one needs to dive deep.  Emotions, histories, perspective, fears, tragedies, hopes, dreams… all need to be plumbed as they intertwine with the ways we’ve learned to cope and defend ourselves.  It takes a lot of stamina, a large ability to hold one’s breath, and wait for the opportunity to surface in a safe way to help keep those who are emotionally struggling afloat. 

Whether it’s sin, recovery, disappointment, abuse… brokenness still needs pairs of footsteps leading out of the water.  A bruised soul needs so much more than just truth.  A suffering spirit needs to be comforted and protected.  I’m learning.  It’s difficult to unlearn habits.  Really difficult.

Genuine can be gentle.  Present can be patient.  Companions can be compassionate.  Rescuing can be renewing.  Loving can be lingering.  Coming alongside is sharing the journey, not necessarily having to change the road.

What a transition from being temporary to being more permanent.  The understanding changing from where emergencies are easier to deal with to a life where one needs to learn to survive the long haul.  It is worth it… to help someone emerge out of rising waters around them, to help take away someone’s burdens and lay them down. 


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