My time at Hope college has been transformative for my faith. Growing up, I was enrolled in public school so my spiritual intake for the most part was limited to church on Sundays. I had a desire for a personal relationship with the God I heard about in church, but I did not understand how to obtain it. I did not know anyone my age who had been able to develop that relationship. It seemed a personal relationship with God was impossible to grasp, like water vapor.
I arrived at Hope for my freshman year, and had a roommate named Natalie. Natalie and I met over “Hope Connect” and had never seen each other in person. As soon as we assessed each other as “normal enough,” we put each other down on the housing form.
Natalie intrigued me because God was her best friend. I would come back from class to Natalie telling me what God had told her on her run that day. She would sprawl out over the three feet of floor space in Dykstra 352 to pray a blessing over our room. Natalie cracked open her Bible multiple times a week and would constantly remind me to “speak biblical truth” over any lies I was telling myself. The Holy Spirit was at work in Natalie, and I knew I wanted to strive toward a relationship with God the way she did.
That year I truly began my faith journey. Thankfully, for anyone wanting to pursue their faith, Hope offers a multitude of resources. I talked to Chaplains, signed up for Bible study, declared a Ministry minor, attended Chapel and began to take the personal steps to get to know God’s character. All of these things were blessings that filled me up, but I wanted more. Something was still missing from my relationship with God.
It was not until the second semester of my sophomore year, that I believe I let the Holy Spirit into my heart. That time was a hard season of life for me. A group of RAs I worked with all decided to do Exodus 90 together through the St. Benedict Institute. Although I am not Catholic, all who are interested in growing their faith are encouraged to participate. Exodus 90 is a spiritual challenge that consists of giving up TV, sweets, social media and more for 90 days. In addition, making the commitment to pray for at least 20 minutes each day.
That year, Exodus 90 took place in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. I was isolated in a single dorm as an RA, with heartbreak seeping into my personal life at school and family life at home. For the first time, I felt things were completely out of my control. It was in this time of prayer that I opened my heart and surrendered to God because I realized just how deeply I needed Him in my life. It was through the 20 minutes of prayer for 90 days that I built the foundation that led me to deep friendship with Him.
There is no list of tasks you have to do in order to have a relationship with God. You just need to spend time talking to Him. He’s right there with you, waiting for you to lean on Him. He desires to listen and respond, to the funny stuff, the dumb stuff, the victories and the defeats. Prayer sounds easy until the semester begins and all of a sudden your Google calendar is lit up like a Christmas tree. But like in any relationship, friendship with God requires time and intentionality. Prayer is extremely simple, but it is not easy and requires patience and practice.
Reflecting on my faith journey as a senior at Hope College, I feel so blessed to have had so many resources provided by Campus Ministries and the St. Benedict Institute. What will always be special to me about Hope is the fact that all of these resources are just that, resources. Although Hope is a Christian college, one does not have to be pursuing spirituality to be a student here. Chapel, prayer team, etc. are never required and are accepting of anyone who just simply wants to “check it out” and never go back again. College is the time where many people are searching for identity and purpose. I greatly appreciate that Hope allows students to freely decide how they will participate. This allows students to take ownership of their own relationship with God. As students seek spiritual guidance, Hope provides the tools needed to grow spiritually. The last step is to utilize these resources and pursue learning experiences and spiritual growth.