This is the first of two parts in a series where I talk about some trials I had when I was a student.
Halls are great, but at the end of that first year, you have to move out, usually into a flat with flatmates.
I kind of assumed that I would end up living with these guys, given all the time we spent together. I should have at least asked, because that’s not how it turned out. I guess I didn’t count on the fact I was kind of annoying.
I guess they must have debated who was going to tell me this, but one morning, one of the guys told me that the three of them were moving in with another guy who they hung out with (who I quite liked, for what it’s worth). To say I was hurt was a huge understatement. I declined the offer of lunch that day and didn’t eat.
Later that day, I got one of those texts you just don’t forget.
You’re annoyed with us, and I guess it’s about houses. I know you’re disappointed, but this is all on you. We never suggested that path.
Indeed they had not, and I was naive to make any assumptions about it.
On the Sunday, I got a text from the same guy who sent me the above text saying
Do you want to watch Enemy of the State? Good film.
Justified or not, I was still hurting from the whole thing and really considered not going, but I felt it was important for the healing process to not burn any bridges. So I went. We ordered a pizza and it was a nice Sunday evening in the end.
It felt good to still be on good terms, but I still had a problem, that I needed somewhere to live the next year, in the next couple of months. I began asking everyone I could if they knew of something, a space in their group, or somewhere else. I got a couple of what I call “Suggestion loops” (a phenomenon when you ask multiple people for information, a favour, or some such, where person A suggests person B, person B suggests person C, and person C suggests person A, in a none-too-satisfying loop- this happens a lot at work when I need to source some data. Suggestions for a better name for this was welcome), which were no help. People did offer to pray, and while I was grateful, it did little to help with the immediate problem. Jesus said not to worry in Matthew 6, but it was hard not to.
Living on my own at that point didn’t appeal. For one thing it was expensive, and for another, I had come to Edinburgh struggling to relate to people my own age and hoping that maybe some would accept me. Despite having a few friends after first year, living on my own would, in my mind, have represented a colossal failure on that front and I was genuinely worried about the possibility of going days on end without contact outside of lectures. I still couldn’t be sure that people liked me and weren’t just tolerating me, a hangover from my school days where I didn’t get any invitations to hang out outside of school (though much of that was on me). Was I guilty of pride? Maybe, but I feel that this was more of an issue surrounding not feeling normal rather than wanting to be well thought of.
There was also the possibility of moving in with “randoms”. I was cautious about that as well, especially if they weren’t Christians. If the people I knew didn’t want to live with me, I wasn’t sure it would be good for me to live with people I didn’t know and annoy them as well, but my options were becoming limited and I had to consider it. I did see some openings but I was far too unconfident to follow up on it.
Despite not having a full understanding of what the gospel entailed in those days, I prayed and prayed and prayed that something would come up. I continued asking my friends but no one had an opening.
Finally, in April, a month before the lease on Pollock was up, my halls small group leader told me that two guys from the small group his girlfriend was leading (plus a friend of theirs) needed a fourth person to move in to a flat on the Dalkeith Road. It was a good flat in a decent location (not far from King’s Buildings where we’d all be studying). While it was disappointing that it wasn’t in Marchmont, where everyone else seemed to be, beggars couldn’t be choosers and so I jumped at this chance.
I ended up living with one of the guys for two years and the others for four in that flat, and I’ll talk about that in the follow-up to this (which I am going to be calling Time).
I hadn’t until recently pondered what God was doing in this time. I probably won’t know the full story until I ask him face-to-face, but while it was painful being repeatedly rejected and going through months of self-doubt, these are sometimes necessary things to happen to grow in righteousness, more like his son. I think that I learned much about being a better neighbour (and by that I mean just being someone that is aware of the needs of others in terms of how they want to be interacted with) as well as patience, trust, and not thinking so much of myself. And I praise God for it.
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
But, as we’ll see, though, it got worse before it got better.