The Lounge Lizards

26 Jan

There they sit, on the blue comfy couches, laptops open, backpacks and coats scattered around the room.  It happens every afternoon about this time, a dozen or so students converge on the Wesley, flop about on the couches and become, for lack of a better term, lounge lizards.  Under the guise of doing homework, they have lively discussions, tell funny stories, and drink cappuccino like it’s going out of style.  They complain about biology and chemistry and make creative flashcards.  But mostly, mostly they’re just learning to love each other.  Mostly they’re just learning to live in the Kin-dom of God.

And inevitably the laughter pulls me out of my office and I too sit and pretend to read, silently sliding in, trying not to spook them, and hoping familiarity will breed trust.  They are freshmen. Wary of new people, unsure of my role, they clump together; their years of youth group creating an almost impenetrable wall through which I look in vain for a crack of some kind.  They have created their own worship service, their own Bible study, their own community and I am desperate to figure out how to be their pastor.

Of course, I know better than to want to be liked, but if they won’t let me in at all, how can I possibly be present with them?  The women come to Women’s Group but sit silent, refusing to share, testing to see if I’m really going to love them, if I deserve their trust.  The men talk around me, never quite meeting my eyes.  And in seven years of campus ministry I have never had a group this hard to crack, this resistant to my presence.  And I wonder if I’m a failure, if there’s something I’m missing, some approach I haven’t tried.  And in the end I breathe deeply and give them some space, hoping against hope that one day the wall will crumble and they will not only let me in, but also the rest of the Wesley community.

And by Christmas I’m tempted to give up.  To let them be in their own bubble, to minister to the rest of the students and let this group do its own thing.  I call a colleague or two, eager for an easy fix or a winning strategy.  But community living is not easy and this can’t be fixed. The semester ends and the building empties and I leave too, grateful to not have to spend my day analyzing group dynamics.

I dread returning.  But here we are, the spring semester begins, and somehow God has been at work.  Suddenly there are Facebook friend requests, and coffee dates, and Women’s group clicks.  As if Joshua had blown the shofar, the wall crumbles and they decide to lay claim to the city, to truly engage in the community.  The nature of community is always a mystery, infused by the Spirit. Who knows what changed or why, but here we are, learning to love each other, learning to be in relationship through the Kin-dom of God.

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Rev. Heather Godsey is an ordained CC(DOC) minister serving as the program director at the Wesley Foundation UTK, in Knoxville, TN.  She edited a collection of essays about young adult spirituality and sexuality for Chalice Press called “Oh God, Oh God, Oh, God!” and leads workshops/retreats on hook-up culture and collegiate sexual ethics. She loves her lounge lizards almost as much as a salted caramel mocha.

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2 Responses to “The Lounge Lizards”

  1. Jan January 27, 2012 at 10:20 am #

    AWESOME!!! Your are a rock star! Thanks for sharing this 🙂

  2. Barbara Heck January 30, 2012 at 10:07 am #

    Hey, if they really didn’t want you around, they could very easily hang somewhere else! Clearly, the pastoral work began when they took you up on your good grace of have a space complete with cappuccino in which they can lounge. May God crack open their hearts further to let you in!

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