IV. Finding Jesus in North Dakota

It was my first semester at NDSU. While my original intentions of becoming “who I really was” were not being fulfilled, by my own personal choice, I was really enjoying college. I realized that you did not need to drink and have sex to have a great time. I was meeting new people, as well as hanging out with one of my friends from high school who as at college with me. It was through her that I would meet a girl named Erin, who, despite having only spent a semester with, is someone I credit a lot with setting the trajectory for the remainder of my time in college. She was an agnostic who inspired me to not just accept what was easy, but to search for what is true. And while we have come to drastically different conclusions in that search, if it wasn’t for her, I probably would not have sought out intellectual answers. But I’m not here to write about my relationship with her today. Anyway things at school were going great from classes to friends to being on the hall government in my dorm.

But at home, things were terrible, and going home became a tremendous burden and source of stress. I went home after two weeks at school for my birthday. On that Saturday afternoon, my mother called me into her bedroom because she wanted to talk to me. For some reason I was terrified, I thought she had somehow found out I was gay, and that a bomb was about to be dropped on me. Instead she told me that she and my father were filing for bankruptcy. I was in shock, but it explained why my father had been extremely agitated at the thought of having to put my textbooks on his credit card a few weeks ago. Over the next few months, each visit home became a bigger and bigger source of stress and I often returned to Fargo with a sense of never ever wanting to go home again. But it was met with an intense of feeling of being trapped, that Fargo was just an illusion and that I would be sucked back home to live in that chaos and dysfunction for the rest of my life.

During Christmas break, things got really bad. It was 23 straight days of being at home, in close contact with all of these people and their financial, medical, and emotional problems, not to mention my own inner struggles. On the night before I was to return to Fargo, I had one of the biggest fights of my life with my mother, and it is one of the few fights in my life that I can remember with intense clarity. My siblings and I were in my mother’s bedroom, and the classic conversation of trying to decide what to eat for dinner came up. It was the same old question I was used to throughout high school. We all had our specific answers that never changed, and like usual, instead of being the parents and simply making the choice themselves, it turned into the classic family argument that it had been for years. Only this time, at my suggestion to go to McDonald’s (which was my go-to), my mother flew into a fit of rage against me, and chastised me for suggesting eating out, and that it was because of my desire to constantly eat out that we were filing for bankruptcy. I could not believe my ears. The family’s financial issues were my fault because, you know, I held a gun to their heads and stole their credit cards to rack up debt. I was so hurt and angry and astounded that I did not speak to them at all the rest of that night, and the next day I planned on leaving as early as possible so that I would return at the moment that the dorms reopened.

As I drove back, my mind was a whirl, but I fully intended to never ever go home, to never speak to them again. I was paying for college on my own, and the van and insurance were the only things they provided for me, and I could, like other students, live without them. When I got back to Fargo, I met up with Ness, my friend from high school, and I thank God that I did. She took me that night to Prism. Prism was a Sunday night college worship service at the local Evangelical Free church. It was there that I heard a message that I had heard before, but never truly got: God loves me.

As I was surrounded by all of these college students praising God, taking time out of their college lives to do so, I was moved. Jesus meant something to them, Jesus had entered their lives. I wanted that. I will be forever indebted to Ness for that experience. Later in the week my RA invited me to Bible Study after he found out about my experience, and I soon became friends with six of my best guy friends for the next few years, and through them, met the girls of a parallel Bible Study. I was quickly absorbed into their friend group, and finally found my college rhythm.

I went to Bible Study each week as well as the weekly Cru meeting and Prism on Sunday nights. And instead of working as the Nature Counselor at camp that summer (which I had done the summer before), I chose to work back home because I didn’t want the crude camp staff to kill my faith. And so I found myself that summer living with the people I had earlier vowed to never see again, and it made for an interesting summer.

The following school year was my sophomore year. I was now an RA myself and leading a Bible Study. Being an RA is one of the most important decisions I made in college, because without that choice, I never would have met Andy, and without meeting Andy, I would not have met Megan. And as it turns out Megan is hugely important in shaping the path I would soon take.