Monday, May 11, 2015

Repost: Bible College Survival Handbook: Other People

My friend, I hope you aren't tired of my unasked for advice yet.  It's not because I think I'm smarter or more spiritual than anyone else, just that I've done what you are going to do, and this is a collection of things wise people told me, and things I would want someone to tell me.  Today I'm going to focus on other people. I didn't have any nightmare roomates, and I hope they can say the same of me. :)  That is not to say there were no differences, because I know we are all sinners, so differences are inevitable, especially when you are sharing living space with someone.  You can stuff your weaknesses down enough in front of most people, but someone who can't get away from you is going to know who you are at the end of the year.

1. ) Don't despise people who are different.  If you are living in a dorm, you will be sharing space with people who are different then you. Here are some ways they might be different:
* Different style of education; public school, Christian school, homeschool
*Different ways of bill paying; you might have to go get a job, someone else might have their parents pay their bills.
*Family structure; some will be from Christian families with generations of faithful Christians-what a blessing! Some got saved out of the world, and no one in their families are saved, but they want to start serving the Lord, what a blessing! (My husband fell into the last catagory, and I'm a third generation Christian.) Some had a hard life before college, there will be young people there with scars most of us can't imagine, some with rough edges because they came from a rough home.
*Cleanies vs. Messies-you know that's gotta cause some conflicts!
In any case, let me tell you that you will not understand everyone, and a good many of them will not understand you. Don't start out with a chip on your shoulder, and don't be drawn into conflicts. You really can learn from every one! God just might want you to minister to and help someone who is different from you, and if you start out despising them, He can't! Don't whine about other students.
We also are humans here, and humans naturally despise others.  You might say that you don't, but you have a tenancy inside, called pride, that wants to look down at others for any of the above mentioned differences.  If you get a roommate who snores loudly, is really overweight, has smelly feet, or never learned to clean the bathroom at home, is this going to be the topic when you are with your friends? Most people don't think twice about mocking others for their stupid problems, but we know right away that it's wrong if someone does it to us!
Please don't make big deals out of minor things, and don't get all sarcastic about people who are easy to despise. God loves them as much as He loves you.
2. ) That was a lot of "don't", so here is a "DO!"  Look for David and Jonathan type friendships.  Jonathan saw David serving before his father, and his heart was knit with David's.  Why?  Because Jonathan saw a love for God in this scruffy lad that mirrored his own.  When you love God, you love others who love God.  I thank God for my friendships from college, many of whom are just as strong today as then, even though we don't have a lot of contact with each other.  All we have to do is get together and all of the same things we shared in before are still there to enjoy, even though we are all in different stages of life now.  Ask God to lead you to people that you can be a blessing to, and who will be a blessing to you.
3.)  Another "Don't".  Avoid whiners.  Ryan  cornered got to interview missionary Rick Martins once at a mission's conference we were in together.  One of his questions was, "As a young missionary, what kind of things should I try to avoid?"  The immediate answer?  "Negative missionaries!"  Negative whiners are everywhere, even at Bible college, even in the ministry.  Although it's easy to develop friendships with folks who share the same whine as me, it doesn't help me to grow spiritually.  Jonathan's heart wasn't knit with a whiner.  These people will happily share their rotten attitude with you and anyone else, and then walk away and gripe about you!  Here's a clue, if you notice that most of your conversation with a particular friend is in discussing problems, try to change the subject and put an encouraging spin on each thing, giving glory to God.  A true whiner will get frustrated quick and have nothing left to talk about.  Someone who is growing spiritually will feel convicted and want to be around you more because you encourage them to do right.
Here's modern day me, with a note on this point.  While the method I suggested does work,  I've found it's better just to ask the person if they've talked to the other person, and kindly but frankly say they should talk to them and not to me.  The other method makes the person not want to talk to you, and this one might just help them with their problem. 
4.)  Make godly friendships with people of the other gender.  Freshman often enter their first year with romantic notions that they will make eye contact with some stranger and their future will be set.  Newsflash!  God doesn't use Disney protocol!  Just let God work in your heart and keep your friendships godly and honorable.  The Bible tells young pastors to treat the younger woman as sisters, because they are.  Our kinship, however, is a spiritual one, and not a physical one.  In the physical world, we must protect the honor of our brethren with modest dress, behavior, and speech.  I'm thankful for my friendships at school, that I've nothing to be ashamed of with the husbands of other women.  They treated me with honor and respect and I did the same with them. So keep your relationships pure, including conversation.
5.)  DO give other people the benefit of the doubt.  I Cor.13:5 says that Charity, or God's love, does not think evil of others.  In other words, it doesn't make negative assumptions of others.  This is easier to do than you would think.  As a rule, give the benefit of the doubt when someone says something, or does something you could be offended over.  In matters of open sin, or abuse, the Bible tells you what to do in Matthew 18.  But most of our problems with others (especially between ladies) involve hints and grouchy comments that can be taken in a number of different ways.  Look, if someone has a problem with you, and they aren't willing to come out and tell you openly, give them the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe they are struggling with something spiritually, or homesick, or just having a bad year.  Compassion and love in such a situation will give God liberty to touch a heart like nothing else.  Patience.  You need it for others, and for yourself; not just to bear your burdens, but to do it joyfully.
 6.)  Finally, study Matthew 18 and commit to deal with all differences and offenses that require action in accordance with God's command.  Also, watch out for others who want to dump their problems in your ear.  If you aren't part of the solution or part of the problem, kindly but firmly ask why you are being involved.  In my experience, this is a new concept for a lot of young people in college. Look out for whining (it will be called "burden sharing" or "getting it off my chest")  Look out for slander.  (It will be called a "prayer request")  Look out for information swapping.  (I tell you how so-and-so hurt me, you tell me something just as juicy-this information will usually be used against you at some point.)

Your friends in school can be a great blessing to you, and you can be used of God to help others who are hurting.  In a dorm with all kinds of girls, I promise you that each year there will be someone in close vicinity that is hurting in ways you can't understand, and God can use you to encourage them!  They can also draw you away from the Lord, as there are some people there for the wrong reason.  Pitfalls come when we start to get sarcastic and look down on others.  So let the Lord have His way!  Remember I'm praying for you.
This is the second part in a three part series.  The first part is here.

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