In high school, I didn’t have close Christian friends. I didn’t feel like there was any place for my faith in the classroom or hallways. I didn’t dare speak of my faith for fear of mockery from my partying peers.
My first weeks of university were no less intimidating for my weak and unproven faith. I assumed that I had to quietly hold onto my faith alone. It was my habit to keep my faith separate from my school environment. I never considered there might be opportunities available for me to grow my faith at university.
I had no intentions of getting involved in social or spiritual activities on campus. My intentions for university were only pragmatic: attend classes, get good grades, get my degree, graduate, and get a good job. I felt safer to keep my faith contained within the margins of home and church. Can you relate?
In the first week of classes, I was settling into my surroundings and becoming familiar with the layout and routine of classes. It was always stressful getting into my Psychology class as it was in the biggest lecture hall on campus. As usual, I had to step over fellow first years to get to one of the few open seats left. There were more students than the 450 seat theatre accommodated. If I didn’t come early enough, I’d be sitting in the aisle.
I settled myself, relieved to have found a seat. But my relaxation didn’t last for long. Suddenly at the front of my mega class I noticed a group of students trying to get our attention. It took a few seconds for chatter of the packed room to die down. What came out of their mouths next instantly struck fear in me.
“We are with a Christian student club on campus. We want to know what students like you are thinking about spiritual matters. Please take a moment and fill out a survey. If you are interested, you can leave your name and number. When finished, please pass your survey to the aisles for us to collect. Thank you.”
My heart started beating faster. I froze. I wanted to vanish in my seat. At no other time did I want to keep my faith private like I did right then. I felt shaky and faint. I thought, “What are they doing? They can’t talk about their faith here, can they? Is this allowed?” I waited for my professor to intervene and stop them. I feared being associated with them. They had just shattered my notion that faith is to be kept quiet in the classroom.
I had never imagined a peer could be so bold about their faith in a secular academic environment. I was in shock. Some tough guys sitting around me at the back of the lecture hall started joking and making fun of them. For fear of those guys I didn’t fill out a survey.
Although part of me was terrified to associate with those bold students, part of me felt drawn to the hope that there might be a place for my faith at university after all. When they came again to my chemistry class I filled out the survey and even left my contact info.
After getting connected, my new friends invited me to join them in going public with my faith. I needed to re-consider what place and priority my faith had in a secular university.