Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Room With A View

When I first arrived at college for Freshman Orientation, I was secretly hoping that I would get “a room with a view.” There is nothing so refreshing, after hours of intense studying, as stopping to stretch and gaze out a window at a pleasing panorama. I knew that if I was lucky enough to land a room on the top floor of the dorm, then I would get a view of the surrounding countryside, of the library in the distance, or maybe even a glimpse of the Shenandoah River. So, I’ll admit I was just a little disappointed when I discovered that not only was I not on the top floor, but my room was actually in the so-called “basement” level. I had a window, of course, but it looked out on the parking lot. However, I soon discovered that this particular room had more to offer than that particular view.
Our room was located just next to the entrance—not just to our level, but to the whole dorm. Because of our unique location, a lot of traffic would pass by our door every day. (This had its downside, too, of course: I remember telling my poor roommate that if one more girl slammed the door on her way out I would scream. Patience isn’t my strongest virtue.) During the normal course of the day, it happened that every girl on the floor and almost every girl in the dorm would pass by on her way to the chapel or class or the library.
In a few weeks, I began to realize that this position next to the exit was an unexpected little grace.  My roommate and I liked to leave the door open while we studied, and most days we did our homework in the comfort of our rooms, with our desks positioned so that we could easily turn and extend a cheery hello to the girls going by. They would stop by on their way in or out of the dorm, at all hours, at least to say hi and occasionally to chat. Sometimes the chats would turn into heart-to-heart talks, and before long, the girls who passed most often began to tell me about their homes, their families, their hardships and hopes. At first, when these beautiful young ladies began coming to me with heartaches or stress about schoolwork, I thought they were looking for advice, and often I would rack my brains to try and think of something wise to say, usually ending with the only thing I could think of, which was hardly original or sagacious: “Well, go pray about it, sweetheart, and trust God, and I’m sure it will turn out alright.”
However, pretty soon I understood that these girls weren't looking for advice, and didn’t need me to give any. They were simply looking for someone to talk to. They often knew what they had to do in the challenges they had to face; they just needed a listening ear, a welcoming smile; in other words, a safe harbor where they could tell someone their troubles. I began offering tea to the ones who looked like they were particularly in need of a respite; and over steaming mugs and crackers we’d unwind or open up our books to study together. Others didn't have time for tea, and they would simply drop in for a few minutes and be on their way.
Looking back over the year, I realize that God had given me that room and placed those young women in my life not simply that He might be able to use me as an instrument of His grace in their lives, but so that they could teach me. Through them my view of life could widen beyond my struggles to comprehend their headaches and heartaches, their spiritual or scholastic mountains to climb. They were there to teach me to listen, to open not just the door but the ears to my heart, to truly pay attention when my neighbor needs compassion or encouragement or just a little attention. Through them God gave me the chance to see Christ in my spiritual sisters. That is a lovely view indeed—and I don't have to live on the top floor to see it.

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