Given as my Senior Snippet yesterday at UCSB Real Life
Trying to think of what’s changed the most for me over the past four years isn’t such an easy task. So much has changed. It’s funny, because I think more people would describe UCSB, or college in general, as a place where students are likely to lose their faith than they are to find it. Well, for me, I’ve seen my faith grow and transform so much throughout college.
I think one of the biggest shifts my faith has changed is the way I approach it. To me, it used to be an opinion that I would need to defend. It’s not that anymore. Instead, it’s an experience, one so intense, that it can’t help but affect every other area of my life.
And an area of my life it has transformed that really stands out to me is in the relationships that I have.
Back in high school, I dealt with loneliness a lot. Going into college, I wanted nothing more than to escape loneliness. I sought friendship after friendship with varying degrees of success. It wasn’t really until after I started taking God a lot more seriously that things began to shift. I learned that God designed us for relationships, which is why I craved them so intensely, and hurt when I didn’t have them. But, what I didn’t get was that I was only chasing a small portion of the picture. God designed us for a relationship with him, and that naturally flows into our relationships with other people. We’re designed to grow closer and closer to God and each other- and we understand this relationship-system as goodness and Love. This doesn’t work without God, though, and I kept failing trying to chase after this desire on my own, without understanding why it was there. The thing is, the key to any relationship is grace, and that’s only found through Jesus.
My friend Chris likes to say that a person who has friends is a rich person. If that’s true, I feel like I went from being broke to being a billionaire. I’ve seriously been blessed with some of the most incredible relationships. God’s placed everything in my life to make it happen. I have a job that’s all about teaching communication and social skills to kids who have a hard time with it. I get to work with Bridges, which is all about crossing cultural lines to form awesome relationships. I live with seven of my best friends, and a dog. Oh, and my junior year, I studied abroad for all but a quarter, and I spent that quarter just surfing on people’s couches- and even that experience was one that helped me forge great relationships. I’ve lost count of how many roommates and housemates I’ve had in the past two years alone.
It’s like I asked God if I could just have a couple of friends, and he winds up giving me a family. And I’m Filipino, so when he gives me a family, he gives me a very, very, very, large family.
When you’re a family, you know you spend a lot of time together. Our immediate communities are like families in that regard. The thing is, whenever you allow yourself to get close to someone, the more power you give that person to hurt you, and to hurt you bad. If you’ve ever been dumped, you know what I’m talking about. But the key to these relationships that we were designed for, is to make the choice that says “my relationship with this person is worth it. It’s worth the potential for hurt. It’s worth the hurt, and moving past it, and growing from it without looking back.” The key to these relationships is grace.
If you are a follower of Christ, then you’ve been on the receiving end of this grace before. And that allowed your relationship with God to happen. All our other relationships need to mirror this. Without grace, all our relationships are just games over who owes who. I really got to learn this the couple of times I went abroad and didn’t have this community as readily around as I normally do. I enjoy having a diverse group of friends, and I’m one who actively tries to avoid living in some Christian-bubble. But I will say that the people I feel I can really relate to, are those who have experienced, and those who live as a reaction to grace.
Within a Christian community, you’ll find people have all kinds of backgrounds. Some come from different denominations, or different cultures entirely. Some were raised outside of the faith. Others were raised extremely conservatively. Some like myself were raised one way, responded poorly to it, went the complete other direction, and came to rediscover faith in a completely different light. One thing that is the most upsetting is how we somehow place tremendous amounts of pressure on ourselves as Christians to have an opinion about everything. People will have questions, and will want to know, what do you think about Catholicism and Protestantism? What’s your stance on gay marriage? Are you allowed to drink? How much? Opinions endanger relationships. Opinions create an us vs. them mentality. Christianity at its heart is not about opinions, it’s about grace.
The Gospel is a story about grace. Here’s a way I like to challenge myself to live: can you take the events of what you did yesterday, and portray the Gospel through that? Literally walk through that exercise.
Grace looks like being willing to say “I’m sorry,” not because you were wrong necessarily, but because you value the other person more than you value winning an argument.
Grace looks like what happens when you stop trying to change a person, and simply Love them and let God do the changing on his own schedule.
Grace looks like my roommate Matt doing all the dishes in the house after they’ve all piled up in the sink. I’ve seen that happen a few times this year.
At our place, the Love Dungeon, we have the worst parking lot ever, where three cars have to park in a line, and if you’re in the back, you need everyone in front of you to move their cars around a tiny parking lot. Sometimes, my car is in the front, and I’ll have the bad habit of walking off to class or dinner with my key in my pocket, trapping all the other cars in.
Grace looks like my roommate Bryce cutting me some slack whenever I do that, which is often.
Grace looks like me cutting him some slack when he did that yesterday- for the first time.
Grace looks like my other roommate, Mike, letting me use his car so I can get to work on time.
Real relationships run on grace. This is true in the ultimate story of everything, and this is true in whatever you end up doing tonight.