I spent my college years in the hills of East Tennessee at a small Christian college. I went with my best friend, Carrie, by my side and aspirations to become a missionary doctor. Against all odds, we did remain roommates and best friends during our four years there.
Moving far from home and going to a college of less than 900 was an amazing atmosphere. My professors knew me by name which produced a lot of academic accountability. I had the opportunity to play collegiate tennis. Being quite conservative, there was an atmosphere of safety from the party atmosphere of the typical college lifestyle. Not to say that one couldn't find it, but there was plenty to do instead. It was an incredible amount of fun. I would liken it to living in the world of Seinfeld where everything is an inside joke and the people so closely knit together that it seems surreal. In some ways it was like being at church camp for adults. Most people dated around initially and then became engaged and married.
My sophomore year, I found myself on that very track. I believed that I had found the love of my life. A strong Christian guy, highly admired, studying premedicine and called to missions. It seemed perfect to us and to everyone else.
Although I lived eight hours from home, I would catch a ride whenever I could. I enjoyed our long winter breaks and getting reacquainted with old friends, though I spent my summers on campus working or doing a mission's internship overseas. There was something quite comforting about coming home to a place where little had changed.
On one winter college retreat I noticed that something had changed. That quiet young man, Sean, who had graduated and moved to Florida was different. His hair was longer, that was for sure. He talked a lot more. But more than that, he appeared free somehow. He spoke with conviction and excitement about God. He seemed driven to pass on what He had been learning. It was apparent that there had been a transformation in his life.
I remember him striking up a conversation with me on a bus ride to a retreat. He didn't beat around the bush. "So, tell me, what has God been doing in your life? What is He teaching you?" His blue eyes were intense and listening.
Frankly, I felt a little put on the spot. The first thing that popped into my head was some trite answer. "I'm learning to trust Him more." I really don't remember what I said, but I do remember being a bit saddened with the realization that I didn't have a good answer. My life, energy and emotions were pretty well consumed in my relationship and hopes of upcoming marriage. It was unsettling, but I let it go at that.