Friday, November 22, 2013

Brothers

Back on September 9th, I sent an email to a certain Religion professor that I'd never met before, asking him if I could come in and visit his class.  Without hesitating or even having met me, he suggested I come add to the Twitter experiment he was running in the class.  Normal people would probably have agreed to check out the class for a day and then see where things went; I, on the other hand, created a Twitter account devoted to documenting the happenings of this upper-level Religion class.

Two days later, I walked into a classroom on the third floor of Taylor Hall not knowing who would be there or what to expect.  Would they like me?  Would I like the class?  Would they wonder who this stranger was invading their class?  My usual self-conscious thoughts ran through my head as I walked in the classroom and waited for Dr. Jonas to arrive, praying the occasional awkward stares would die down  quickly.  Thankfully, I did know two of the guys, Chris, who I've known for years through College Democrats, and Bryce, who I'd met briefly through Ryann the year before, but the other thirteen guys and one girl were total strangers to me.  The first day...was about as good as one could hope for, given how unexpected it was for everyone.  I was fascinated by the material, and there was so much laughter in the room, that at the end of the 50 minutes, when Dr. Jonas said, "Mallory, I hope you'll join us again," it didn't take any thought on my part before I responded, "I will definitely be back."  I slowly began to get used to it there, and I introduced myself to people whenever the opportunity arose.  The only person I ever really spoke to, though, was Bryce, which helped keep me from feeling out of place there.

On September 27th, the seizures started.  As I felt it coming on and heard Dr. Jonas cancel the class, I was overridden by feelings of guilt.  But what sticks out even more to me than that was what my classmates did.  Bryce sat by my side and didn't leave, even though we were only acquaintances, but I assumed that everyone else had just left.  Eventually, I learned how wrong I was.  Guys I didn't even know the names of helped take care of me and get the paramedics up to where we were.  And even though I was very out of it, as they wheeled me to the elevator, I still remember seeing several of them sitting on the couches nearby, watching and waiting.  That night, when I was reflecting on everything that had happened, I was blown away by the fact that people I didn't even know the names of yet were so concerned for me.

Every day that it happened, the same scenario played out.  I grew more and more afraid that this time would be the time they got tired of me, and they jumped into action to help me.  Later, I would try to thank the ones who I remembered seeing, and they would all tell me pretty much the same thing.  "It's no problem.  Glad I could help."  And when the guilt got strong that I sent out messages of apology, simply stating that if I had known my health would take this kind of turn, I never would have walked in there in the first place, every single one of them, "You have nothing to apologize for.  I'm glad you were there where we could take care of you instead of by yourself."  That was when the "Could they actually be this nice?  Is this real?" question set in.  As a girl who's been drug around far too many times by peers, often by ones who called themselves Christians, I had a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that this group of college guys could give to me time and time again and not even want a thank you for it.

Since then, I've found out the answer to that question.  A loud, unhesitating, unswerving, boisterous, sincere YES.  These guys not only proved to me that they could be that selfless and giving, but they showed me what they really thought of me.  They made me understand that when they said they'd adopted me as a part of them, they meant it.  I felt a sense of safety with them as soon as I stepped foot in that classroom that I'd never found that quickly with anyone else.  With most of them, it only took one real conversation before I felt like I'd found a long-lost friend and could share just about anything with them without judgment.  Once I got a glimpse of who they were on a personal level, my suspicion faded away and somehow I knew that I'd found a gift in each of them.  And the more we grew to trust each other, the more natural the name "my Reformation brothers" felt.  It started out as just an easy way to refer to them as a collective group, but it became a statement of truth.  Because they were already my brothers, not even six weeks after I'd met them.

And I mean brothers on more than just the "brothers in Christ" level.  With these guys, I found a whole new kind of family that I didn't even know I needed until I realized I had it.  They showed me what family looked like, the kind that's not tied to bloodlines and DNA, through their actions.  They texted me to check on me.  They came to visit me when I was on lockdown, or simply when I just needed to see someone.  They had dinner with me.  They picked me up from the hospital.  They were there in whatever form they could be, always a bright reminder of just how not alone I really am.  And because of that, they showed me without saying a word that they didn't see me as the girl with the seizures, or the girl who randomly joined their class; I was just...me.  And I was enough.

I don't think I could ever appropriately list or explain all that they've taught me.  They showed me what the heart of this school is really about.  They showed me that good guys really do exist.  They taught me how not to be afraid of being myself.  They taught me that Matt was right all along; when I got to college, eventually I would find guys like him who could be my friend without ulterior motives.  They taught me about God.  They taught me how to rely on my Father above all else.  They reminded me why it's good that I always have someone around who's willing to call me out on my crap.  They taught me why it's important to believe in myself, and how to see myself the way that they always have.  They taught me why my blunt honesty is a good thing.  They taught me how you can be a gift and a blessing to someone even when you're weak and can't give anything outright to them.  They were always there with lessons I needed, whether they realized it or not.

I couldn't make it through this series on thankfulness without dedicating a post to 15 guys who have seriously changed my life and the kind of person, friend, and Christian that I am.  We only have one more class, and it's not until after Thanksgiving, so today seemed like the perfect day.  I'm already sad thinking about not getting to spend time with this rowdy, wonderful group again after that, but I know that friendships don't have to end here, and I pray that they don't.  And I praise God for that.

Brothers, this one's for you.  I am so, so thankful for you.  You probably think you don't deserve this, but in my eyes, it's the least I can do.  And it's not just for you, anyway; it's also for me, because I never want to forget how these past couple months of getting to know you has changed me for the better.  You have, hands down, been the biggest surprise and the biggest gift for me in this rollercoaster of a semester.  I feel like God orchestrated all of this at this time for a very specific reason, meeting you just weeks before the craziness started.  I praise Him for His timing, and the encouragement that comes in seeing how He poured out blessings through this crazy, accidental set-up.  Thank you for making me your sister, for loving me so well and showing His love to me in the process.  We won't get to spend much time together from here on out, but thank God for social media!  No matter what our friendships look like from here on out, know that I am praying for you.  I pray that your hearts only continue to grow from here, that you become stronger men of God and continue to show His love and grace to others like you did to me.  I pray that as you reach the end of college, some of us sooner than others, you focus on His guidance to lead you to the best possible place, and to rest assured that He will make something beautiful out of your life even when you think you've made a mistake.  I love you, I am so proud to know you and to call you my brothers and myself your sister, and I wait with excitement to see what big things you do in the months and years to come.  If you ever need a friend, you know how to find me.  I am always here.

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