How to Start Your Life after College
- Erica Young Reitz
- 2016 20 Sep
Diverse by Design
From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is the story of a God who values and designs diversity. From Babel (Genesis 11) to the Great Commission (Matthew 28) to Pentecost (Acts 2) to the great multitude of every tribe, tongue and nation worshiping together (Revelation 7), we know God intends diversity. When the kingdom comes in fullness, people from all nations will unite together under one banner. This unity doesn’t mean uniformity, but rather a beautiful picture of hearts joined together in love for God and each other while we simultaneously maintain those distinctives that make us unique.
The future picture of the coming kingdom in all of its diversity has implications for today. As Christ followers we have the responsibility to embrace people who are different from us. As tempting and comfortable as it may be to surround ourselves with people who are similar to us, this is not God’s intent. Though it’s crucial to have like-minded friends for the journey ahead, it does not mean we hang out solely with people who are exactly like us. By design, God desires for us to interact with people who are dissimilar because those interactions shape and change us, hopefully into people who model more of Christ’s character. In fact, God may place us in a situation after college where we are forced to befriend people who are the last ones we’d handpick as our primary community.
A couple of years out of college my friend Lauren and I decided to lead a Bible study for other young women. Mostly we were just looking for an excuse to gather some of our favorite people together on a weekly basis to study God’s Word and encourage each other. We sat down and made a list of about a dozen women we wanted to join us. We prayed, picked our study material and passed out invites. Our handpicked small group started coming together—with one glitch. The women we invited also knew other women. The word spread, and people started coming out of the woodwork, cold calling us to see if they could be a part. This was not our plan! We wanted to hang out with our friends, not a bunch of random women.
Lauren and I had a choice to make: stay selfish or split up and lead two different groups on different nights in order to welcome as many women as possible. In the end, we got over ourselves and decided to offer two studies. Though I probably would not have handpicked this unlikely group of women (and I’m guessing many of them felt the same about me), God used that small group to refine each of us ways we could not have imagined.
When we realize that God has placed us in the company of people who are different from us (whether in our church, job or neighborhood) because he wants to use those people to refine us, we can have a better perspective when we rub each other the wrong way. There’s a good chance that friction whittles away pieces of us that are not pleasing to God or teaches us something about ourselves that we need to work on or confess (such as pride, jealousy, greed or selfishness). Perhaps it simply brings a new perspective that we need now—or for the future.
Less Like Us, More Like Christ
When we make our focus less about finding people like us and more about being like Jesus, we open ourselves to an incredible journey. Embracing diversity and getting out of our comfort zone is good for us, is good for others and brings God glory. The Scriptures are filled with stories of God’s people and what happens as they embrace new and different experiences, sometimes willingly and sometimes not. Abraham left Harran, Moses led an exodus from Egypt, Daniel pursued faithfulness while exiled in Babylon and Jonah finally went to the uncomfortable land of Nineveh. Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman, turning things downside up (“For Jews do not associate with Samaritans,” John 4:9). Paul entered the marketplace at Athens to engage the thinkers and philosophers of the day. As each of these people left their comfort zone and aligned with God’s plan, they served as a signpost, pointing people to him.
When Jessica Jackley shares her story, she starts by remembering a moment when she realized her life had become too comfortable. In fact, she “started to do funny little experiments to shake things up.” She spent a semester at sea in the Shipboard program, travelling to new countries and continents. She shaved her head. After college she moved to California, where she engaged new ideas that challenged her thoughts about the global poor. This led her to quit her job, move to East Africa and listen to the stories of people there. All of these experiences—far from her comfort zone—undoubtedly laid the groundwork for an incredible contribution as cofounder of Kiva. This microfinance organization has loaned millions of dollars to help the global poor become entrepreneurs in the world.
When we let go of what’s comfortable, we invite God to transform us and others. Though our choice to move to an unfamiliar place or engage someone with a different perspective may not lead to the start of the next million-dollar microfinance organization, it can allow us to “become less” and Christ to “become greater” (John 3:30).
Taken from After College, chapter 7 “People Are Strange,” by Erica Young Reitz. Copyright (c) 2016 by Erica Young Reitz. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426. www.ivpress.com
Erica Young Reitz directs Senior EXIT, helping college seniors transition into the next phase of life. She works for the CCO (Coalition for Christian Outreach) in partnership with Calvary Church, reaching out to students at Penn State Univeristy. Erica has an MA in higher education from Geneva College, with a research focus on the senior year transition. She and her husband, Craig, live in State College, Pennsylvania, with their two children.
Publication date: September 20, 2016
Image courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com