Read a novel. Write a paper. Come to class and debate: the simplified formula for literature classes in college.
And I loved it.
Nine novels in a few months with all my other psychology classes and active social life… but the advanced discussions and safe debates with other students made it oddly enjoyable.
Debating literary themes and the secret intentions of fictitious characters was far safer than tiptoeing around subjects like politics, religion, and the multitude of social issues. The raw discussions and connectivity of the classroom conversations helped students form deeper relationships, while in some of my psychology classes, we just silently took notes from the professor’s lectures.
There’s an experience that happens through stories that connects people. From going to the movies together on a first date, participating in a neighborhood book club, or even sitting around the campfire, people bond together through the experience of storytelling.
As my professor gave our class a 10-minute break from our literary discussion, students moved around the classroom to stretch and socialize.
“Terry, are you coming to my birthday party?” a girl asked—I think her name was Cassie or Stephanie… let’s just call her Cassie.
“Birthday party? What’s this nonsense all about?” I responded.
Cassie smiled, “Well, I’m turning 25, so I’m getting wasted! I so need a break from this crazy quarter. So totally come, bring a friend too. There’s going to be plenty of alcohol.”
“Okay, I’ll be there. I’m not a drinker though, but I would love to hang out.”
Cassie began writing down her address, “Alrighty then! Here’s my apartment. Come whenever, we’ll be up all night.”
I folded up the torn piece of paper Cassie handed me and put it away in my pocket.
That Friday night I drove to pick up Shawn, who always hung out with me during those early college years. I pulled into his driveway, and he came walking to my car cleaning his black rim glasses with the bottom of shirt.
“What’s up, man?” he sat back in my car looking through his clean glasses now ready and eager for the night.
I pulled out the folded address and told him about the party, and we were on our way.
As we walked up through the parking lot, we found a group of people standing outside on the patio smoking. I might have recognized one of them from school. Lights flashed through the upstairs window and low bass rumbled all the way down to the souls of our shoes.
Inside the upstairs apartment, we were greeted by Cassie expressing how happy she was that I came to her birthday party, as she over enunciated each syllable to hide her tipsy slur. She introduced us to her roommate and her friends, and they offered us an extended bar full of a plethora of alcoholic beverages. I was naive in the brands and types of alcohol, but the group stood proudly around the makeshift bar, which communicated to me they must have had quite a desirable collection for a group of college students.
Cassie’s roommate proudly give us a tour of their apartment, once again mentioning the bar. She was really excited to show us the living room, which had a monthly calendar painted on its wall, about six by nine feet in size.
Within each dated box, there was a little drawing and some words written. One read, “American lit. paper due.” Others read, “Wild acid trip” and “Frist threesome experience.” She explained to us how it was her art project and how she would take a Polaroid photograph of the wall and then repaint it at the beginning of each month to have a collection of all her experiences documented in a unique way.
When we ran back into Cassie, she asked us again if we wanted anything to drink. We told her no, and she said, “No, Terry, seriously, we have more than enough drinks, have something.”
“Thanks, but I’m good. I’m just happy being here.”
“I’m getting you a drink. What do you want?” she moved behind the bar.
I knew she wasn’t going to give this up, so I eventually told her, “I actually don’t drink.”
She froze for a moment and replied, “Oh my gosh, you’re like a real Christian.”
“We talked about church that one time in class,” I reminded her.
“Yeah, but a lot of people go to church or even claim to be a Christian though.” She looked around her apartment noticing people grinding up on each other. She looked to a girl passed out on her couch. She looked at the oversized calendar painted on the wall and then to the red cup in her hand. “This must be so offensive to you. I’m so sorry.”
“No, no, don’t apologize. I don’t want you to feel bad about anything. I just wanted to celebrate your birthday with you and let you know I care.”
She didn’t respond for a moment and then searched for the right words, “Thanks so much. I don’t think many people would be here to just celebrate my birthday. You are a real Christian.”
“I’m just a forgiven sinner hanging out with some nice people.”
Cassie smiled and pointed to Shawn, “Is he a real Christian too?”
Shawn said, “I hope so!” He then checked the tag on the inside of his jacket. “Yup, 100 percent real Christian.” And this made Cassie laugh.
Shawn and I stuck around for a little while longer and then took off. While driving Shawn said, “It’s kind of sad that people are surprised to find actual Christians.”
Over the years, I thought a lot about Cassie’s statement. Sadly, there have been some times in my life where people wouldn’t have known I was a real Christian. I think that can be said for most believers. Even Peter publically denied Christ three times.
I think evangelism is a combination of living a pure life and being honest about when we don’t. It’s letting people know that we’re still growing up spiritually and that we struggle. And in our struggles, God’s grace is sufficient. It’s taking the focus off us and placing it onto Jesus.