- “The only way there is through.”
- “Love your neighbor.”
I had a very challenging situation in boarding school. The dorm had run out of rooms, so my roommate and I were sharing a single -- a double bunk in a single room. You couldn’t turn around without bumping into your roommate. He and his friends were giving me a lot of trouble. More than once, they ganged up on me and beat me up. One of his friends also stole my tape recorder. I proved it; the kid got kicked out; and the guys beat me up again -- and I mean beat up. I wanted out of there, and I wanted home.
So I called my dad, and instead of saying, “I’ll come get you,” he said, “The only way there is through.”
“What?” I wondered not only what he meant by that, but why he wasn't rushing to save me.
The expression, "Home is where your heart is," is so true. Home is not a place, not a physical location; it's a way of thinking. My dad obviously knew this. What he meant was that you can’t outrun or run around your challenges. You have to face them, and face them head on right now -- because even if you try to run away, the problems will eventually catch up to you, and you will still have to face them. What he was saying, without exactly saying it, was: “If you want to run from the problem, I’ll come get you. But if you choose to stay, I’ll support you, and you will get through this.” So I stuck it out with my roommate.
At the height of our problems, for whatever reason, I invited my roommate -- he, who was beating me up -- to come to my family's home for Thanksgiving with me. He was blown away by the invitation. I’m sure he was thinking I must have been dying to get away from him. But he accepted. So for five days, we hung out at my house. There were no pressures, no cliques, none of that stuff. We had an amazing Thanksgiving. We became friends. He stopped beating me up and stopped encouraging his friends to beat me up. We became normal roommates for the first time.
At the time, all I had was a thought -- maybe he’d like to come home with me. I knew he lived in a tough neighborhood. Our Thanksgiving experiences were certain to be different. As it turned out, he was amazed by our Thanksgiving dinner. He loved it. But looking back now, I see that I had actually been listening to the “still small voice” (I Kings 19:12). Without really knowing it, by inviting him to join me, I was turning the other cheek (Matt 5:39). In a great way, this affected me. It changed everything.
I realized many years later that I had made an offer of love. I had done what Jesus told his disciples to do: “love your neighbor” (Matt 22:39). My roommate responded to that act of love. His actions basically said, “I beat you up last week, but I’ll go with you.” My simple outreach and his simple acceptance changed both of us. We stayed friends throughout school.
When we listen to the still small voice, and when we turn to love, we find that we can get through anything, and good things come to us. Listening and turning to love make a positive difference in all our lives.