At the start of my junior year of college, three of my friends decided that they were going to spend the semester and study abroad at Continental Theological Seminary in Brussels, Belgium. Two of them were really good friends of mine who previously were hall mates and roommates. The other, Hannah, had served with me on student council, but outside of council our relationship was pretty surface-level.
Before that fall, Matt, Jo, and Hannah spent much of the last semester trying to figure out all the technicalities involved with going overseas for several months. They all had to decide some time before the trip whether or not they were going. It was a big personal investment. I’m sure the decisions were tough for all of them, but I could clearly see Hannah struggle with the decision.
It wasn’t that she wasn’t sure if she should go. I think she felt surety that Brussels was where she needed to be that fall. I think doubt started creeping in when many of her closer friends expressed their opinions on her trip. Some took the selfish approach and said they couldn’t stand being without her. Some took the “good friend” approach and expressed their fear of her going. They didn’t think she could make it in a foreign land for that long. Others saw it as a pipe dream – good to talk about theoretically but not to actually go out and do.
Too many people keep their dreams under the covers in their bed, and they never walk their dreams out the door into the unknown. It’s easy to criticize someone else’s dreams when our dreams are under the covers.
Recently, I decided to do something online called the, “Start Experiment.” This is an experiment started by NYT Best-Selling author, Jon Acuff. The experiment is based off of his newest book, “Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work that Matters.” The title and experiment are pretty self-explanatory – start something new. I joined the experiment thinking that it would help me with my new-founded college-age ministry in CT.
My friend Hannah could have followed the “advice” she was getting from her friends. She could have decided that CTS was not a good idea for her. Too often people would rather join a revolution or a winning team or be a part of the bandwagon than decide to go against the grain or start a movement of their own or adventure on the road less traveled. Hannah decided she would go on the trip regardless of what her friends said.
This is the part of the story where I come in. A couple weeks before Hannah would leave, she visited campus where I was staying for the summer. We went out to dinner and shared our life stories, and I just encouraged her about her trip. I helped her feel affirmed in her decision to go overseas, and we would be great friends there after.
Hannah has since been a beacon of light for me when I needed hope. One time, during our open dorms at school, she even took the time to hide post-it notes of encouragement all over my room! Encouragement and affirmation spread like wildfire. They are like a bright light in an abyss. The friendship I have with Hannah reminds me of that.
I know this is going to sound hypocritical, but I am going to ask you to stop joining movements, and join a movement to start a movement (I know, you probably had to re-read this sentence just to figure out what I mean – Sorry).
One of my favorite things about the Start Experiment is the wave of encouragement coming from all the other people in the group. No one actually knows each other outside of cyberspace, yet there are countless posts and comments of encouragement and love and unity. These are all coming from people who are trying to start “being awesome” – it sounds like most of them already are awesome!
Start a movement. Be a light. Live your dream.