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Community is Hard, Community is Beautiful
While preparing to come to Covenant, I heard a lot about the community. So, when I came in, wide-eyed and innocent, I expected it to be something that just happened. It quickly became apparent that this would not be the case. I found myself alone in my room even at times when I wanted to be around others. I knew there were people around, but I didn’t know how to reach out to them. Because I’d heard so much about Covenant’s community, I hadn’t really considered I’d have to.
A lot of the difficulty reaching out came from a fear of rejection. When I saw a group of people hanging out, there was and still is an uncertainty to whether or not I’d be welcome. I didn’t want to be invasive, but I didn’t want to be alone. I wasn’t unfamiliar with the balancing act, though I had by no means mastered it, but I had naively assumed that it would be easier in college. Instead, I often found myself alone at times when I desired community.
And it seemed like I was the only one dealing with all of this. It seemed like all the other new students had found their people with no trouble at all. On hard days, it seemed like everyone else had formed groups, and I’d somehow been too late to make it into any of them. But I was reminded by faculty and other students alike that I was far from alone in trying to navigate this whole new social scene. It became clear that the uncertainty was a part of the average transition to college life.
Recognizing that others are likely having similar difficulties can be an important first step in reaching out towards each other. It allows us to understand that when you try to forge friendships, it’s not about entering someone else’s already formed friend group. Instead, it’s about extending an invitation to the people around you in order to navigate a new world together. It’s about forming mutually beneficial relationships, not exclusive groups. And although I write from a freshman’s perspective, I don’t assume this is only a challenge for new students. I believe this is something we continue to struggle with and learn throughout our lives.
Having said that, I want to clarify that just because most people deal with uncertainty in this transition does not mean that everyone experiences it in the same way or to the same degree. It will take people who are a little more comfortable reaching out to make others feel welcome. The processes to make connections and build relationships will look different for everyone and may take more time for some, but that doesn’t mean it’ll never happen. Community takes time. But between the moments of confusion and tears, there are moments that remind you of what it’s all for.
Community is beautiful.
One of the days that stood out to me for reminding me of the beauty of community is Day of Prayer. Whether it was singing praise with the student body at Rock City, having breakfast and worship with my hall, or watching “The Princess Bride” in the commons with friends while other friends baked in the kitchen, everything about that day reminded me of a holiday with my family. But what was it that made that day so special? Sure, the moments where we simply hung out and watched movies were fun, but I think the beauty of that day points to something deeper about our school. Covenant doesn’t just have community. It has fellowship.
I have always understood fellowship to be the way believers interact with one another as they seek to glorify God together. When Christ is our focus, our relationships with each other become deeper for it. If we are striving to follow Christ, it will become evident in the way we treat each other. In John 13:14, Jesus says, “by this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” When Christ is central, it should be evident in our relationships.
In the short time I’ve been at Covenant, I have observed this fellowship as vital to the community. It is as we sit together lifting our voices in prayer and praise or as we seek to build each other up in our relationships with Christ that I understand why Covenant’s community is so strong. It is in those moments that I am overwhelmed with gratitude for a school that strives for Christ’s preeminence in all things. The fellowship at Covenant makes for a deeper, richer community.
College is a unique time in our lives. It is likely the only time in our lives in which we will live in a close community with our friends. And for Covenant students, it is more than that because we do all of this with the purpose of glorifying God. This is shown in the way we pray with and for each other. It is in the way we sing God’s praises in a community. It is in the way we study God’s word. It is evident when we are honest with one another and seek to help others grow in their relationships with Christ.
Even with fellowship as our goal, relationships aren’t always easy. Just a few days after Day of Prayer, I was once again reminded of the challenges I faced in trying to navigate a new social scene. There have been highs and lows, and I am confident there will be more. But I am also confident that community and fellowship are worth the heartbreak and loneliness. It is a slow, rocky process, but it can lead to richer relationships, both with God and others. And as we walk that bumpy road, looking to glorify God in the relationships we form will make it so much deeper. Fellowship will be worth the struggle.
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 24, 2021 issue of The Bagpipe.