Location: Palmerston North, New Zealand
“The crest and crowning of all good, Life’s final star, is brotherhood.”
– Edwin Markham
It was a serious learning experience living in a dormitory with 30ish young guys. Some of them loved one another, others hated each other, but they were all brothers. They came from several countries, spoke multiple languages, and had varying backgrounds. All of this was an established dynamic. But then I showed up, the new guy. I had no established credit, I didn’t know anybody, I was “old,” and I was from farther away than anybody else.
That was a year ago. Now I’m writing this as I take a break from packing my bags. It’s time to leave my kids, my little brothers. What was it that bonded us? What is it that really ties us together as people? I’m still not entirely sure I have an answer to that question, but I think I’ve come close to the mark.
I didn’t have a gauge to tell how I was doing as a dean. I thought things were going fine, but it was hard to know if I was actually bonding with my guys. I felt like I was shooting blind until I read some comments in the yearbook about five months after I had started. One of my boys in the dorm quoted his most memorable experience from all of high school as making beef jerky with Sir Derek (AKA me). I don’t remember where the idea came to try to make jerky. In all honesty, we didn’t even do a good job. Our valiant effort, which took days, had resulted in overly chewy sticks of teriyaki-flavored beef, a large portion of which was burnt beyond the point of acceptable consumption. Yet, this poor attempt had been one of his best experiences.
Over the next several months there were many more experiences like this. The boys and I had wars with toy guns, foolish rap battles, and pancakes galore. As we went through our favorite memories of the year, these experiences all topped the charts. They were simple, cheap, and dumb, but they were about us experiencing life together.
What was it that bonded us? It was the experiences, the memories, the stories we could tell together. The things we best remembered weren’t the parties, the elaborate banquet, or the trips we took. It was the simple things that brought us together, the spontaneous fun that made us close. Experiences made the “you and I” mentality become an “us” mentality.
The same things bond us to God. Church is great, and so are the elaborately planned services, but what really bonds us is the day to day, the experiences, and the memories of being and acting together as a single unit. In Matthew 28 Jesus says, “… I am with you always, to the end of the age.” He is ready to make memories. He is there to bond, to be spontaneous. Maybe we can’t exactly make beef jerky with Jesus, but the invitation to be together stands and the greater the acceptance, the stronger the ties.