I went to Homecoming at Geneva College this weekend. I won't give you the cliche, because I absolutely can believe that it's been ten years since I graduated. If you know me, or have spent any time at all reading this blog, you know that the last decade of my life has been full to say the least.
I loved being back to Geneva, but it was a little bittersweet at the same time. Walking through campus, watching the students interact, I felt really sad that I was now an outsider. Geneva meant so much to me, and I got to share a little bit of why with some people over the weekend.
I came to Geneva in 1992. I was a high schol dropout with a GED. I was making my way on attitude and bravado, riding a 1000+ score on a PSAT...I took with a hangover. I felt like I was cheating the system. That is so funny to me now. I felt like I had found a way to get around the corners, that it was all me. How differently that story gets told today.
Now I realize that in spite of me, God blessed me by allowing me to be admitted to Geneva all those years ago. In spite of my disobedience, God allowed me to be admitted and to eventually graduate. I think I was probably right about one thing back then though. When I went to my mother after one of the other cab drivers got shot, begged her for money for college and told her that if I didn't get an education that I would be dead by the time I was thirty...I was probably right.
My life was going downhill fast when God brought me to Geneva.
It wasn't all roses though. It was quite an adjustment for someone that had spent the better part of 3 years regularly associating with drunks, crack addicts, prostitutes and their clientele to be required to attend mandatory chapel.
So, I'd like to tell you that after four years I walked out of Geneva a completely changed man. That wasn't the case though. I had made strides, for sure, and I had a better grasp of the Bible and my personal theology. I still had God on hold though. I was still too willing to live my own life.
Still, as I normally reflect on my years at Geneva, I look on them with extreme fondness and thanfulness. I know that Geneva changed my life. All I have to do is check up on some of the people I knew 15 years ago and see where life has taken them to note that, there but for the grace of God go I.
And it's in light of that line of thinking that I can honestly say that I am thankful for the storms, I praise God for the tears, that I wouldn't have it any other way. God has refined me, and I long to serve him.
Still, I have plenty of times, sometimes minute by minute, that I feel like I know exactly how Paul felt when he said:
Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ
How could I know the Gospel of Christ, how can I have a personal relationship with Jesus himself and still sin the way I do? I know the answer to that question, but nonetheless, I realize more and more how graceful and holy God has to be to forgive a man like me.
So while I was sitting here tonight thinking about some of the ways I've failed over the past week, something I heard from a few people yesterday came back to me. Each person used different words of course, but the basic meaning was:
"I can see that God has moved in your life, you are not the same Randy Bray you were ten years ago."
They're right. He has moved, and He has moved me. He has moved me right off of the throne in my life (although at times I've led a failed coup or two). Thing is though, I live with me every day, and sometimes it takes someone that doesn't to highlight the changes we go through. I feel blessed today. Blessed to know that someone else, a couple someone's as a matter of fact, were able to see the power of God displayed through the way He has changed me.
If for no other reason than that, all of the storms, all of the tears, they were worth having lived through. This world is not my home. I can endure anything for this brief moment, because I will spend eternity with God, and these things will fade in comparison to being with God.