“College is the place where everyone meets their closest, lifelong friends. It’s the time of your life. Enjoy this last bit of youthfulness with your newfound best friends while you still can.”
That’s what everyone will tell you about college. And if you go to my college, they’ll add something else into the mix: “It all starts at Corral.”
See, we had this thing called “Camp Corral.” It was essentially half a week of going to camp, being bombarded with thousands of new people, and going to pre-scheduled “fun” events. The slogan was “It all starts at Corral,” the idea being that you would make all those lifelong college friends at Camp Corral.
And, boy, that couldn’t have been farther from the truth, at least for me.
I suffered through a half week of “fun” camp activities, missing home, and anxious for classes to start. As far as I knew, I’d already failed, in that I hadn’t made all those friends I was supposed to have made.
But, never fear! Perhaps I’d make those lifelong friends in my classes. I still had a chance.
So, fast forward a few months–a semester into my freshman year. I still hadn’t met anyone I would call a good friend, let along any of these “lifelong” friends. I was lonely, and I was despairing over my college experience. Time of my life, right. At this rate, I was just ready to get my degree and move on with my life.
Now, maybe you’re expecting me to wrap this story up with a nice little bow, saying that by the end of my freshman year, I’d made the best friends a girl could ask for, and it just took a brief season of hardship for me to emerge from it all the better.
But that’s not how this story ends. Not quite.
I will say that I emerged from that season of hardship all the better, but it’s not because I suddenly had a close group of these “lifelong best friends.”
No, I emerged from that season of loneliness, triumphant because it was only in my loneliness that Jesus was able to show me that He is truly my sweetest friend.
Psalm 139 says:
“I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night—but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you” (v. 7-12 NLT).
Isn’t that just such a sweet reminder that Jesus is with us through it all? Even when our friends hurt us, Jesus is there. Even when we don’t seem to have any real friends, Jesus is there. In all of our wanderings—and, yes, in our loneliness—Jesus is there.
When I had a good group of friends on whom I could rely, it was difficult for me to really grasp what it looked like to completely rest in Jesus as our best friend. I didn’t need to go to Him for everything, because I had my friends for that, right?
But He used a season of loneliness, something I never would have chosen in my life, to pull me into His embrace.
And I have to say, I’m incredibly grateful for it, pain and all.
Can you imagine what it would be like to be a girl who can rejoice in loneliness? To be a girl who doesn’t define her worth by the number of friends she has or how many likes she gets on Instagram?
Can you imagine the peace our souls would receive by allowing Jesus to be our sweetest friend?
It’s certainly not a popular notion. But it is a beautiful one. Where people are fleeting and bound to disappoint, Jesus never will. And He is calling us to Him; we simply need to lean back and rest in His wonderful embrace.
Kayla Johansen – Column: Road Less Traveled