What’s with the sunglasses?

So you’re just minding your business, sunning yourself in Panama City Beach, Florida, when a couple college kids show up and want you to take a survey on spirituality. If you ended up here, you clearly said yes and we wanted to thank you for that! We hope the conversation that followed was thought provoking as well as fun! We here at Cru are available as a spiritual resource for college students such as yourself (and would love to talk to you whether you’re a student or not)! 

If you still have questions about God after the conversation you had or you want to delve into other topics on spirituality, we would love to help with that. Here are some options for you:

1) Want to spend time exploring your questions and learning about Jesus on your own? Check out everystudent.com where you will find articles on most of today’s hottest questions.

2) Want to connect with the Cru movement on your campus? Search here to find their contact information: https://www.cru.org/communities/locations.html

3) Want to try to connect with the Cru Cleveland student who you spoke with on the beach? Email allison.reed@cru.org with the subject Beach Conversation Help and she will try to help you find them! 

We’re so glad we got to meet you and we pray that this conversation has touched your life in a meaningful way. Enjoy those sunglasses!”

The Facade.

My counselor asked me to write down 3 words that I felt described who I was at my core. Immediately the word ‘fake’ came to my mind. No hesitation.

Well, maybe I should back up. You see, I was in counseling because I kind of had a little bit of a mental breakdown.

Ok. Maybe I should back up a little further.

My entire life up to this point I lived for an image. I lived to be liked, to be seen as the put together, funny, athlete with lots and lots of friends. My resume included athletic records, valedictorian, president of social clubs, voted “Most Friendly” by my senior class. I came across as confident, hilarious (or at least mildly amusing), competent, easy to be around.

But when the crowds were gone, when I slowed down long enough to be with myself, I realized that I didn’t feel like any of those things. What I really felt was scared, intimidated, lost, and hollow.

Then social media came into my life. I loved seeing that red notification after I posted a picture. I agonized over the perfect caption (still do, actually). I want to be witty but not try too hard. Be real but in a sarcastic way that makes me funny, and not as “bumbling village idiot” as I feel.

Whether it was at the high school cafeteria table, or behind my phone screen as an adult, my life had become so incredibly filtered: centered around saying the right words, posting the right posts, and when in doubt: cute kid pictures. And yet, the “red notification high” lasted fewer and fewer seconds and left me feeling more and more plastic, more and more desperate for that ‘like’ of approval.

The filters were all a facade: an alternate reality where people thought they knew my life. My Facebook, Insta and Snapchat shouted to the world the person I had crafted to be seen, admired, respected, and even envied. And yet my soul whispered, for fear of being heard, the person that didn’t feel any of those things.

I couldn’t reconcile the image I projected to the world and the real me that was afraid to be seen. Seen as I believed I really was – weak, unsure, and selfish. 

Now we’re back to the mental breakdown-ish and the counseling- a year and a half’s worth. Probably the best money I’ve ever spend outside of my Hershel backpack which I would pull out of a raging fire.

I realized that the fear of people seeing me- the fear of people thinking I was unspectacularly average, passing me off, and being thoroughly unimpressed- led me to hide. Hide behind my phone, my computer screen, my Instagram, my friends, my religion.

Hiding gave me a sense of control. Hiding seemed safe. But hiding isn’t how we are meant to live. Hiding and freedom cannot both inhabit the same reality.

So here’s the end and the part where I give you my sage wisdom.

Step out of hiding. Choose freedom. I know it’s possible.

I found that freedom by choosing to walk towards Jesus. I believe He lived life without pretense, exactly how He was created to live.  I believe He woos me with kindness out of the darkness, out of the hiding. And I believe he wants to do the same for you.

Do you?

Take Off Your Shoes…

I remember the first time I laughed so hard in public that I snorted (and it was in middle school, no less). I was humiliated. Granted, I did live teetering on the edge of awkwardly uncomfortable and total humiliation. And all it took was a green thing in my teeth or bumping someone in the hallway or running into a door (yes, that happened) to plunge me into the depths of wanting to disappear.

Needless to say, no one was more relieved than I to have middle school pass me by. And even though I gained more confidence as I grew into my long, freckly arms and learned to embrace my awkward sense of humor, that feeling of having to keep myself together never really went away. There was always that thought in the back of my mind that one wrong step, one door frame that’s just a little more narrow than you initially think, and the image I worked years to forget would instantly flood back as my friends would step back and look down at me, shaking their heads or raising their eyebrows in judgement.

Here’s the thing though, perfection is exhausting. There’s a fear in perfection, in keeping it together. Shame lurks in the pieces of yourself that you hide from those around you, mocking the light. It laughs at the thought of vulnerability, it ridicules the desire for transparency.

And even though I don’t know you, yes you, reading this on your phone, taking a “study break” that’s now two Netflix episodes deep – I know you. I know you’re not meant to hide, to mask, to fake. Every single human being on the planet was created with a longing for the intimacy that only comes from being known exactly as you are, awkwardness and all. We are glued to storylines that portray it, we sing songs about it, we are captured by it because it’s ingrained into our DNA. It’s written in the fabric of our very beings.

Source

We long for the freedom to “let our hair down”, to take off our shoes in the context of community. To sit on a couch and ugly cry as Derek Shepherd makes that stupid U-turn (for all our Grey’s fans). To throw off the bravado that’s impossible to uphold and admit the struggle, the fear, the junk.

It takes courage to step into the light and open-handedly bare your mess with messy people. There’s risk in relationship. Spoiler alert: worth it.

Cru is a place where messy people come to walk out of the darkness of shame and toward Jesus, together. Cru is a place you can take your shoes off, let your hair down. There’s no pretense, no perfection.

Don’t believe me? Come to Fall Retreat. Come spend a weekend walking towards Jesus with 200 other college students whose faces are turned in the same direction. Come slide down a tube into a pit of mud. Laugh until you snort. Sing loudly and off tune. Eat as many marshmallows as your hollow stomach can handle.

Don’t believe me? Prove me wrong. I dare you.

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”

C.S. Lewis

Step Into a Bigger Story

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”                                                                                                  Matthew 9:36-38

 

At the heart of Jesus is love and compassion for hurting, sick, lost people. When Jesus looks at the crowd in Matthew 9, He sees harassed and helpless people, like sheep without a shepherd. They are people who are wandering around looking for direction, leadership, purpose, but can’t find it anywhere. Sounds a little familiar, doesn’t it? We all want to have purpose. We all want our lives to have meaning.

Crowds 

When I read this passage from Matthew I’m immediately struck by the emotion Jesus has when He sees the crowd. It’s not anger or pity or judgment, but compassion. He isn’t mad that they have no direction and isn’t judging them for not knowing their purpose. He has compassion; meaning Jesus doesn’t merely know about their distress, but also has the desire to alleviate it. Jesus sees the crowd and wants to give them meaning. He sees people in need of love and care and He wants His people to move towards them.

 

As Jesus is moved with compassion, He turns to His disciples and says that people are ready to hear why they were created: to know Jesus, the Good Shepherd. In fact, there are so many people ready to hear that there aren’t enough people to tell them. So He tells them to pray earnestly to God for more people to tell others about Him.

 

Friends, you are an answer to that prayer Jesus told His disciples to pray. What is true of the crowd Jesus saw is the same for us now. Just as before someone told me about Jesus, I was harassed and helpless, without purpose or direction, so are the people I rub shoulders with day in and day out. Each of us represents webs of relationships that God has purposefully and loving put us in. In those relationships we are called to not only care for people but to actively give to them the greatest news of all time: that Jesus wants to restore them to right relationship with Him and give them meaning and purpose in life. The God of the universe wants us to know Him personally! It’s amazing news to share.

 

So today I invite you to step into a bigger story. A story God is writing that is restoring the world, as it should be, one person at a time. The people around us are looking for a Shepherd to guide them, to know them. How could we not point them to the One who loves and cares for them so deeply?

Welcome Back Students!

It’s the start of another year of school! Time to buy new textbooks, meet new roommates, and make new memories (as well as go to new classes and learn new things, of course)! We here at Cru Cleveland and Northeast Ohio are so excited to meet some new faces and reconnect with the ones we already know. As you are being ushered into this busy time of the year, we hope that you are taking the time to consider how you can be an influence for Christ on your campus and how you can seek to walk well with the Lord this year while at school. Imagine how committing to honor Christ with your year will affect not only your own life, but the lives of those who surround you!

Cru is an awesome resource for students on campus who wish to explore more deeply what it means to be a follower of Christ. We hope that you will join us at our weekly meetings, Community Groups, and other special events on your campus to join with us in Christ’s community! After all, as David said in Psalm 133, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”

You know you want this year to be one to remember. Why not start it off right by getting plugged into a community where you can build friendships, learn more about your faith, and become an influence on your campus? We want to see Cleveland redeemed this year, in more ways than just hopefulness in sports. We want to see Cleveland redeemed by the spread of the Gospel throughout Cleveland’s colleges and universities, bringing hope and joy to the students of Northeast Ohio. Learn more about how you can be a part of the mission to reach your campus with the Good News of Christ’s salvation by clicking on your campus on the sidebar of this blog. There you will find information about meeting and Community Group times on your campus, as well as links to our Facebook pages and who you can contact for more information.

Hope to see you soon!

What Are You in School For?

“I am in school to get an education…” I get it. You came to college to get a degree. To get a job. So studying is important.  Who can argue with that?

And if you’re at an elite institution the stakes are even higher. Average is anathema. It’s not just about getting a degree and getting a job. It’s about competing with all of the others who are there to do it better than you. You’ve got to somehow stand out in a class of standouts. So studying is important. Who can argue with that?

Your parents aren’t going to like me much.

I was a latecomer to Christianity. The year in college when I got my first and only A minus, which irreparably tarnished my perfect GPA, happened to also be the year I met Jesus. He life-altering-ly came into my life.

Jesus changed me. I wish the change had come faster. The following year, I got my first and only B.

Another Cru staff guy I know, Tim Norman, gave a talk early in my Cru staff life entitled “The Copernican Revolution of the Soul.” The Copernican Revolution was the seismic paradigm shift that took place in the western world when Copernicus made the discovery that the Earth is not the center of the galaxy; our solar system revolves around our Sun. (Catch the double meaning of revolution?! Tim’s cool like that.)

A similar transformation needs to take place in the life of every single Jesus follower. I am not the center of the Universe. Jesus is. Me and my tiny little orbit is not all there is. Everything is by Him and through Him and for Him. And that changes everything.

When I became a Christian and was exposed to the totality of the claim that Jesus has upon my life, I wish I could say that it was instantaneous, but my little orbit didn’t end automatically. In fact, there are few days when there’s not some impulse to take Jesus’s place at the center, expecting Jesus to take his place revolving around me.

Even early in my Christian life, I was savvy enough to know that Jesus isn’t opposed to education. He values the mind. He created it. Certainly he would want me to study and do my best for him and be a good witness for him in the classroom. After all, I’m in college to get an education...

Those things, on their face, are true.  But my statements stemmed from a central foundational belief which was false – one that hadn’t really undergone the revolution. Jesus baptizes my plans and my dreams. He orbits me.

Being a part of a movement of people who were genuinely seeking, however falteringly, to give Jesus his rightful place at the center, and grappling with big questions about calling and purpose and stewardship – that, over time, changed my perspective. My regret, unfortunately, is that it came too late to shape my college years in the profound way they might have.

What if you’re not in college, ultimately, for you? What if you’re not in college merely as the product of your good decisions, but by God’s design? What if you’re in college on a God-ordered path of growth and sanctification, specially meant to help conform you to his image? What if that path includes giving yourself away to others, sacrificing like Jesus, and dying in order to take up the life of Jesus? That path might mean studying less. Jesus would be ok with that. Would you?

Why not come earlier to the party than I did and put yourself in an environment to experience the revolution… My revolution didn’t happen over night. Experience tells me that yours might take some time too. I’m so glad there were people on campus who believed that Jesus is worth it and wanted that revolution for themselves and for me.