I realize that it’s still weeks away for school to start, but I feel the need to write something about yet another new beginning. Two days ago, I moved into an apartment with three other guys in Ducks Village – a complex near Autzen stadium. When I was fully moved in and had all my things put away and organized, I sat down to rest. I’ve been going through a chapter of Proverbs each morning and a chapter of Psalms each night for the past week and on that day, I hadn’t yet touched the book of Proverbs. So I opened my Bible while resting and took each verse, each word, bit for bit, “chewing” the wisdom of God carefully and slowly.
For some time I’ve been thinking about how different this living situation is going to be than my previous ones. For starters, I’m the oldest guy here. Secondly, I’m not an athlete (one guy plays football and the other two run track). Thirdly, I’m a rather quiet and reserved individual and with only four people under one roof, there really isn’t much to hide behind, especially when the other three roommates are energetic and out-going. When I lived with eight other guys, it was easy to slip by everyone and live my own life in my little room. I didn’t do that all the time, but it was easy to do. And last year I lived with only two other guys, but they were kind of like me in that they did their own thing. We all still hung out quite a bit, but I think most of our time was spent in our own rooms just doing our own thing.
Throughout both of these former living situations, communication with everyone was constant, solid and good, even if I was a quiet kid. But there are other things that each roommate could do that could either make or break the living situation even if the communication is good. Leaving dirty dishes out, leaving the TV on while not using it, or not changing the TP roll when you’re the last one to finish it are all things that could subtly eat at one’s patience. If they go unaddressed, before you know it, you’ll be mad a certain person although you’re not entirely sure why. This is a tricky part of living with other people that is relatively difficult to handle. On one hand, you want your roommates to be responsible and take care of their own stuff, but on the other hand, you don’t really want to make a big deal out of it, so you might not really bring it up when you see them. Throughout my four years of college, I think there are two possible solutions to the problem.
Leaving the issue as is isn’t really a good idea because it only makes things worse and creates more unspoken tension between roommates. What might actually settle things, though, is either voicing your thoughts and concerns about the issue or, as I’ve realized this week, just do what needs to be done. On Tuesday afternoon, I was brought into Putters to fill out paper work before they could put me to work. One of the things my boss, Steve, and I discussed was what’s the one characteristic that makes someone a good worker? The answer: Someone who does things not because he or she has to, but because it needs to be done.
And then I came to Proverbs 6:6-8; “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.” Something as simple, small, and seemingly insignificant as an ant reveals a way of living that nearly everyone could take a lesson from. Instead of complaining about the dishes being dirty and left in the sink, or someone’s sweaty socks just lying about on the couch, merely cleaning them or picking them up because it needs to be done would be the wiser thing to do. And just as I was about to talk with God for a while on my first night of living here, I realized this could be applied to spiritual living just as well as practical living. Praying for someone because they need it, walking someone through a tough passage of Scripture – or being walked through a tough passage of Scripture – because they (you) need it, or merely talking with someone about spiritual or moral struggles because they need it and you probably need it, too. These are all things that I oftentimes find myself avoiding because I don’t want to do them or because I think they’re someone else’s responsibility, but in reality, the ant has no one to tell him what to do or command him where to go; he just does things because if he doesn’t, he and his fellow ants will starve and die.
Now, I don’t think that if I avoid doing someone else’s dishes that I’ll physically die. But, as I’ve learned from the past four years, if I don’t do anything, the little things about my roommates will start to bug me. And little by little, the tension heats up until it comes to a boiling point, where you either hate your roommates’ guts or you lose your composure and say lots of mean things. I’ve done both, sometimes at the same time, and it definitely does not improve anything. But in the few times where I’ve actually calmly and gently addressed my roommates on certain issues or if I took care of the problem myself, things went along much more smoothly after that.
I think the harder thing to do, though, is taking care of someone else’s problems as if they were your own. And usually, that’s what God wants me to do. Talking things over about cleaning dishes, picking up laundry, or turning off things when you’re done using them is great and very beneficial. But I think the greater act of love, something that Jesus did for His disciples (John 13:1-11), would be to clean up the mess yourself, without complaining. Sure, it is by no means easy, but that’s just it; acting in according to God’s definition of love, not ours, is a life-long journey. It’s a rough and narrow road to travel, but it’s made much easier if and when you decide to let go of your own self-serving concern. As the temperatures begin to cool, the leaves begin to turn, and Autzen stadium begins to echo throughout Eugene, I think my goal for this year is not to excel academically or work my way up through the employee totem pole at Putters. I think my goal this year is to actively show the love of God – without complaining.
“Do everything without complaining or arguing,” – Philippians 2:14