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a beautiful mess

Personal, Words

June 27, 2013

I was walking into work today and heard a small clip of a girl’s phone conversation.

“It’s pretty lonely, but at least it’s always clean.”

I knew immediately that she was talking about her apartment. I’ve shared a similar thought process many times in my college life. I’ve heard my mom say it to people who ask about life as an empty-nester.

I love love love my roommates. They have been like sisters to me throughout the past 3 years of college. We share everything. Clothes. Laughter. Tears. Gossip.

But it’s almost impossible to share the good things without sharing the bad things as well. You learn to share bad habits. Pet peeves. Dirty dishes. Late company. Harsh words.

Somewhere along the way, my priorities have become selfish when it comes to sharing. There have been times when I’ve disliked the bad things so much that I have chosen to forgo the good. It’s times like these that I have breathed a sigh of relief when I come home to an empty driveway.

This summer, though, I have learned to smile when I see my roommates’ cars in the driveway and it has made all the difference.

Assuming Athens would be as boring and lonely as everyone said it would be, I made a list of goals for this summer: Work extra hours to make money. Learn guitar. Craft everything on my Pinterest board. Complete the 12-week P90X program. Take online Photoshop courses. Cook homemade meals. Keep my room clean.

God has taken me by surprise, though, and reminded me how much I love and need community. So far this summer, I have accomplished none of the above goals. I can hardly stand to stay in my office for more than 4 hours a day. I have picked up my guitar twice. I haven’t completed a single craft. I am lucky to get in 4 workouts a week. No online courses. I’ve blown my restaurant budget by over $100. And my room is an absolute disaster.

But I’m not lonely.

Every chance that I have gotten the opportunity to spend with friends, I have chosen to do so. I feel like a freshman again staying out late, climbing and trespassing, going to bed at sunrise. I’ve discovered the joy of walking past my bedroom door when I get home and heading down the hall to Leanna’s room. I’ve given up traditional Sunday afternoon naps to spend the afternoons (and evenings..and nights..) with the college group after church. I’ve left the confines of my office to join my employees for lunch lectures. I’ve followed through with promises of coffee dates with friends. I may be spending more than I am making and being super unproductive, but I am loving and being loved. And I am happy.

This newfound joy has made me realize that we face a choice every day. We can choose to live selfish, clean lives, lives that get plenty of sleep and exercise and lots of tasks accomplished, or selfless, messy and sometimes out of control lives that are spent with others.

When I talk about this lifestlye, I can’t help but give a shout out to Mr. and Mrs. Community themselves. If you don’t know Brandt and Morgan Akin, I am deeply sorry. Morgan and Brandt have been married for one year (as of next week!) and already it is so evident that their marriage is full of love. But what sets them apart from most newlywed couples is that their love is for each other AND for others. I have never met a couple that pours so much time and attention into the people around them. Their apartment is like a haven for any lonely heart seeking fellowship. We (me, my friends, the college group at church, BCM students, any random stranger off the street) are better for it and their apartment is always messier because of it. Sometimes I feel guilty that we steal so much of their time and space, but if it bothers them, you would never know it. Though they both have full time jobs as well as time-consuming leadership roles in the church, you can’t talk to them without feeling like you are their top priority. I find myself driving away from their place (usually well past their working adult bedtime) praying that my future marriage will reach out like theirs does. I also realize that won’t happen unless I make a habit of reaching out here and now.

Isn’t that what the whole “gift” of singleness is all about? Freedom from the time commitment that accompanies a relationship? That’s great in theory, but I don’t believe it’s a gift that is meant to be used all on ourselves. Rather, it is a gift of time and love to be given away to the many people around us.

Having a full house usually means having a messy house and with lots of relationships comes lots of junk. Like I said earlier, choosing to share life means choosing to share burdens. You may find yourself going out of your way to solve other peoples’ problems. You may find yourself up late listening to someone cry with no way to help them. You may have to sacrifice sleep or gas or time or plans to be there for someone else. But you come to realize that you’re much happier focusing on the burdens of others because it takes your mind off of yourself. You start to realize that others are carrying your burdens in the same way, because that’s what God made us to do. He made us to live and thrive in community, loving and helping one another through this messy life.

“Does anyone want to be my running buddy? I promise I wont go fast. I am tired of working out by myself. Also a weightroom/build muscle buddy would be good too. I am just lonely in the aspect of getting in shape”

That’s a Facebook post from my friend, Russell. Russell runs a 4:15 mile and runs 50 to 80 miles a week when he is training. I’ve always refused to run with him because I run a 9 minute pace, 3 miles at a time. The response he got said “Um, heck yes! Granted, I can only do like 2 miles tops on a regular day, but yeah man!” His response? “Granted 2 miles is good enough for me.” ¬†This really made me stop and think. I got into running last year for a few months and was working my way slowly up to a half marathon (I never made it, by the way). One of my good friends asked if she could run with me. She was trying to get in shape and typically ran about a mile, maybe two. I avoided it because I didn’t want to slow down or fall behind in my “training’. As if I was some top athlete. My priorities were myself. Running was barely important to me, but it was important enough to leave a friend to try and do it on her own. Running is a HUGE part of my friend Russell’s life. Granted, 2 miles is good enough for him if it means he’s not alone.

I am usually running so fast through life that those who can’t keep up will fall behind and I don’t even notice that I am drifting away from people that matter.

I dread the approaching fall. While I am excited to see all of my other friends return, I am painfully aware that with school comes schedules and responsibility. As someone who is addicted to busyness, that means I will be filling my planner to the brim with meetings and programs and classes and work. It will be so tempting to rule out time for simply enjoying the friendship and company of others. God has blessed me so richly this summer with a break from all the busyness and an abundance of friendships.

This is my last year in my home at UGA. I hope I don’t schedule loneliness. I hope my room continues to be a wreck because I’m too busy living life outside of it. I hope I spend more time talking over coffee than talking over a conference table. I hope I focus more on helping others than improving myself. I hope I spend more time loving than “leading”. I hope I see the beauty in the mess of a full house.

I hope you will too.

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