BY KELSI MACKLIN
Coming in as a transfer student to Cal, community was a top priority. I knew that as a junior transfer, I would have a harder time finding a community since most students in my class had already been building a community since their freshmen year and through their time spent in the dorms. As a result of this thinking, I may have overcompensated a bit my first semester.
Immediately, from my first day on campus, I was astounded to discover the vast amount of Christian fellowships as well as churches here in Berkeley. The first few weeks I found myself on a “fellowship high,” meaning that I was so excited to see the different Christian communities expressed in these different fellowships that I was eager and anxious to go to as many Christian events as I could fit into my schedule and meet as many people as possible. However, I soon came to realize that meeting people was completely different from having a relationship with them, and that it required a lot more work and energy than I had assumed.
Many people gave me advice to pick one fellowship and commit to being consistent and serving there. I wish I had listened to them. Rather, I believed that I could somehow be a part of three fellowships at the same time and make three times the friends and have thus three times the community! Oh how naïve I was.
By the middle of the semester, I found myself burnt out and exhausted both emotionally and spiritually. I was done with this community thing. I had yet to find a place where I felt that I could belong and be accepted for who I was. I was tired of conversations that solely consisted of: “Hi, nice to meet you, what’s your major? What year are you? What fellowship are you with? Where do you go to church?” And while people tried to encourage me by relating to me their stories of how they found community, I found it all the more disheartening because I felt that I had already been doing everything right, but somehow I still felt so alone.
Somewhere along the lines, I realized that I had been acting on this desire for community as if it were a formula. Maybe if I put in enough hours, met a certain quota of people per event, attended all the large groups and small groups that I could, maybe that would produce for me a community. I was essentially trying to boil down my relationships into a neat formula through which I could plug people in and that would produce a sense of belonging. However, I began to realize that building a community doesn’t work that way.
Before the spring semester began, I was apprehensive about starting school again and the fear of being isolated loomed over me. But God is so faithful and in ways that I can’t even explain, I found myself a part of a community. I began to realize that it’s okay to be alone sometimes; I don’t need to constantly be surrounded by people. I began to realize that having a community does not define who I am. I realized that I had been judging my success at Cal on the basis of the community I was a part of and the number of people that I knew. Over the course of this semester, I slowly began to see the ways that God expresses His love to me through the relationships I had made and the people He has put into my life. I discovered that community is more than a feeling of belonging; it consists of relationships that you invest time and energy into. Rather than making community my priority at Cal, I discovered that I needed to shift my perspective and make my relationship with Jesus my priority. When my relationship with Jesus was right, everything else fell into place and it was then that I could see the community that God had placed around me.