"...then my home is where you are. It's getting oh so hard to spend these days without my heart."--Relient K
The lines of this song have undoubtedly been connected to lovers who are separated by miles, or they maintain the deeper meaning of the ache that we as Christians have to be with our Father. However, this past weekend, they held a different meaning for me.
Nine years ago, I made a decision that has forever shaped the course of my life. I decided to go to Anderson University. At 18, my faith was strong, legalistic, and new. Going to a Christian college seemed to be a much nobler act than partying at a state school. Additionally, I went to a high school where the senior class typically divided itself between IU and Purdue, and no part of me wanted to go to a version of Munster "South campus." I wanted to re-create myself, and it wasn't going to happen living with the people I'd grown up with. So, in August of 2001, my parents packed me up and moved me the three hour distance to Rice Hall. I mentioned that this decision shaped my life, but I know that other decisions that were out of my control also set my course. I'm not sure how the housing department at good 'ol AU decides who's going to live where, but that year, it seemed that the choices made were hand-picked by God.
When I arrived on Rice Hall 2AB, I had no way of knowing that some of these girls would become integral parts of my life and who I would become. None of us knew that we would face incredible hardships together. Whether it was the insane fear that we would lose one of our new friends to cancer (a diagnosis received just months after beginning school); the heartbreak of ending relationships, both ours and our parents; or the questioning of our faith, values, and destinies, we were there for one another that first year of college.
Sophomore year brought new challenges and times of rejoicing. Living arrangements scattered us across campus, new girls were added to the group, and our beloved friend returned to school cancer free. Junior and senior year brought new trials. Boyfriends came and went, relationships waned, and faiths hit roadblocks. I questioned where or if I belonged with these six women. I knew that I had relationships with some of them individually, but as a group, I questioned my place.
Fast forward five years. My husband and I went to the wedding of one of these amazing women this past weekend. I was so ecstatic to see these girls, my college friends, but what caught me off guard was that I was still questioning my place. Those feelings of inadequacy along with approximately 5 glasses of white zin left me a hot, crying mess in the bathroom. (After talking to my BEST friend, I realized I ended up in the bathroom because she had the forethought to remove me from the dance floor before I made a fool out of myself in front of the ENTIRE wedding.)
I came to understand several things in that bathroom. First, Page has always had a knack for pulling me out of situations when I'm getting crazy, and I'm always grateful that she does. Secondly, the fact that I didn't have the same place as the other girls in that group didn't mean I didn't have a place at all, and I AM loved by them. Next, if Leah and I hadn't been so convinced we were disliked by the other, we probably would have been close friends in college. Additionally, no matter how old you are or how high your heels are, when you're drunk in a bathroom crying, you still look like a pathetic 21 year-old bar fly without self-control. Finally, I'm blessed beyond words to have these women in my life. They still (5 years, 5 husbands, 1 baby, and countless moves later) reflect back to me the person I truly am, and they offer a glimpse of who I can be.
I told Courtney that night I don't realize how much I miss them until we're together; she agreed. For the months, sometimes years in between visits, we push down this ache that we feel because really, what else is there to do? It's not possible to go back to college and live down the street or nap together during a lazy Tuesday afternoon. And five, six, seven years ago, we didn't get it. We didn't realize that as wonderful as the lives we were dreaming about would be, that a time would come that we would long for the cramped corners of Rice Hall or the tiny rooms of a make-shift apartment.
The older I get, the more I long for those relationships. When it comes down to it, part of my heart is with those women, my sisters, and sometimes it's incredibly difficult to live without the missing pieces of my heart. That's why nights like my friends wedding are perfection. In those moments, I get to taste heaven. At a celebration of selfless love surrounded by people who know the real me, I feel the smallest bit of what I believe God has in store for His people, and I can't help but smile, laugh, and love the moment despite my heartache to go home.