I walked into the student-led worship service at Whitworth this morning, glanced at SK on stage, as part of the music team, then turned to find a front and center seat, where I could gaze at her with abandon. SK was part of the worship team at our church during much of her high school years, and I tended to take my glasses off when she was in front of us. It was too easy to stare at her, you see, thereby NOT participating in worship. But this morning I didn't care. I haven't listened to her voice leading a congregation in a long time, and was perfectly happy to bask in it, and her lovely face, so intent on seeking God. Beve left to drive home VERY early this morning (I think it was 5 AM), so I was all by myself in that auditorium full of Whitworth parents and students.
Sitting there before the service began, I did my usual--watched all the people around me. Right in front of me, just below the stage, was the university chaplin and his wife, talking to a sandy-haired woman. A woman I instantly recognized...someone I haven't seen for about 30 years. But 33 years ago, she was one of my first college roommates. It was the first time I ever lived away from home, and though it was only across town from my parents, and I went home quite frequently--to borrow a car, do laundry, dig through my closet from some necessary article of clothing, and one very late, memorable winter night, tried to borrow the family's toboggan--I felt incredibly grown-up and independent when I lived with this woman and two other friends. I'm pretty sure this woman was in the car that infamous tobogganing night, a night I won't ever forget, but won't write about here--at least not today. But then, she was often in the car, or in the room, or along on whatever adventure I was about in those days. There were four of us in a tiny apartment--an apartment so small, there was only room for a couple of love seats (furnished by the university) in the living room, bunks in the bedroom, and a miniscule table. But we were quite happy there. More than happy, I'd say. We were living our dreams, deeply involved in the lives of teenagers, social activities, Bible Studies, and...oh, now that you mention it, our studies.
Our classes did seem to be footnotes to our real lives in a way. But that may have just been me. My roomies certainly seemed intent on the myriad projects that were cornerstones of all their classes. All three of my roommates were elementary ed majors, and the industrial carpet on the floor of our place always seemed to be littered with bits of construction paper, glue bottles, and cleverly created posters meant to stimulate student learning. Now I'm creative in my way, but my brain just doesn't work the way their brains did. The lesson plans they had to plan, the artwork they had to do...I'm telling you it gives me a shudder just thinking about it. But those three women were all suited for the profession they had chosen.
This isn't to say that they were peas in a pod, Siamese triplets or even very much alike. They weren't. As I think back about them now, I am struck by their differences. But those differences--in background, world view, interests (and if you add me to the mix, whoa...), personalities--didn't add up to a hill of beans, as the saying goes, when it comes to how we lived together that year, shared the single bathroom, cooking duties (we put 60$ a piece into a coffee can in the back of the refrigerator, next to old jars of mayonnaise, pickles, and juices, and called it, "share and share alike for everything"). We played tricks on guy friends, once took off on a Friday evening, just so we could stick our toes in the Pacific Ocean for a few hours on Saturday. Considering we lived on the opposite side of the state from said ocean, this way quite a journey. We all got soaking wet and freezing from the salty waves, but only in college do people make such a trek--especially in February! On the way home that Sunday, we blew a tire on the little fiat we were in, and realized not one of us had ever learned how to put on a spare. We sat by the side of that lonely road in eastern Washington, praying for some Good Samaritan to come and do it for us...and along came a pick-up with a young man, whose name I want to say was Roy, though it could have been anything. He changed the tire, got us back on the road just as the sun was setting to the west.
That same month, we all had the best Valentine's Day of our lives. No less than a dozen rings of the doorbell came that day. The one florist in town must have chortled by the end, seeing our address come up so often. I'm not enough of a girly-girl to want flowers for every occasion, or even for the most special moments--buy me a book that will last, I say!--but there's something about a small apartment full of every kind of flowers that makes a girl's heart thump loudly. One of my roommates that year was dating my best guy friend, and his single rose to me came with the most memorable sentiment: "C--what can I say? K" Whatever else was sent, given to me, that's the one that's remained with me.
Yes, all this we shared that year. And so much more besides. The ministry of Young Life, the leadership trainings with teaching that still--STILL--resonates with me. Loving kids, loving the world, loving each other. It was John 10 life--lived abundantly.
So running into this old friend, with whom I had life, did life, lived to the fullest, made worship sweet. After the service, we moved toward each other as if pulled by magnets, and stood there talking on top of each other while the auditorium emptied of people. There wasn't enough time, and we didn't have enough breath to cover the lives we've lived since that shared year. But something compelled us to try. Something compelled us to let my daughter and her family stand to the side, making small talk (it turns out her daughter and SK had a class together last year; it also turns out that when I called her name, it took her a moment to remember me, but her husband knew instantly who I was). That same something compelled us to live together, be in ministry together 33 years ago, to laugh about moldy yogurt, silly boys; to cry about other boys who were missing the boat with us--amazing, beautiful us! And that same something is what makes each of us (and the other two as well) tick. Has always made us tick. In all the years, in all the choices, in all our hopes and dreams for our kids. You know, those dreams that our kids will live their dreams, will live with people who share those dreams.
"For the love of Christ compels us." 2 Corinthians 5:14