Tonight, I turned out the lights on the 2011-12 school year at ASU Wesley Foundation.
You’d think I would be happy about that, what with all the financial struggles and building breakdowns and relationship drama that goes with any year in a campus ministry. And after a month like April—when college students seem to lose their minds for a few weeks—God knows I could use the break.
But it’s a bittersweet thing to have to turn the page on this year’s Wesley crew. We’re saying goodbye to some great people and cherished friends. And so it goes.
Once the last of our students had left to make a Wal-Mart run, I turned off the lamp and sat in the chapel for a long time. It’s a small, sparsely furnished room with poor heating and homespun furnishings—nothing you wouldn’t find in any other Wesley Foundation on any other campus. And it doesn’t get nearly as much use for prayer and meditation as I would like from our students.
Still, there is something vast and mysterious about our little chapel, especially when we’ve come to the end of the school year. It’s as if it wants to tell stories of hidden hurts, or quiet thanksgivings, or prayers in the dark. I can feel the strain of growing up, the pain of loss, the comfort of friends.
The chapel whispers stories it could not possibly know, at least not firsthand. It reminds me of conversations on mission trips or bike rides, of tableaus at retreats and texting conversations that were never spoken aloud.
Why is it that all these things come back to me here, instead of in the settings where they actually took place? Why now, in the dark of an empty chapel?
I think it’s because this is our center, our spiritual home. We as a group don’t spend much time in here, not compared to our homes or dorms or classes or workplaces. But the things that hold us together on the deepest of levels all have their roots in the work of God among us.
No place signifies our relationship to God more than the chapel, where we can be ourselves without pretense and without fear. We may forget its relationship to our souls and even neglect it for long stretches. But God continues to call us back into his embrace, to step out of our frantic lives. And when we finally step back into the place of our spiritual center, we find that God has been working in and with us even when we weren’t aware.
For Wesley, the chapel is our home. Even when the lights are out.
I’ll be waiting eagerly for fall.