College started out on the wrong foot for me. There were a lot of contributing factors, and no one thing can be blamed (other than myself, I suppose), but I can name the catalyst for my turn-around: Liz Schofield, now Liz Sharda, who I affectionately (and perhaps somewhat against her initial wishes) call "Lou."
I had met many Christi@ns in my day, in fact I was one myself, wayward as my status may have been at the time. Very few of the Christi@ns I had ever met actually acted like their leader and role model (also known as their savior, redeemer, etc., etc.) In fact, most of them acted a lot more like the dudes in the New Testament that their leader spent lots of pulpit time criticizing (pharisees).
Case in point: I decided one year to attend a "Christi@n" Halloween party instead of the other party options on campus. I dressed like a, well, I don't know, girl going to a party, and a "Christi@n" guy who appeared to be their ring-leader (who I had seen at some of my usual parties doing not-so-nice things himself) approached me and said my appearance was distracting to the group and I needed to leave. Left I did, and I never went back.
About that time, a tall girl down the hall with rosy cheeks and cute hair started being nice to me. She wasn't preachy, though I knew she was a Christi@n, and she wasn't pushy, or judgmental. She treated me like she treated all of her friends. She hung out with me, talked with me, listened to me, laughed with me, and prayed for me. She acted a lot like the guy in the New Testament who drew the line in the sand - you know, the one who sought out dirt bags and slime balls and hookers.
Liz showed me what everyone else had only talked about. She was the living breathing gospel. I started following her to chapel meetings and spring break trips, and eventually she sort of stepped aside and let me gaze in awe at the One who had used her to bring me back to Himself.
I nicknamed Liz "Lou" because I wanted to call her something that no one else called her, because she was my special someone, in a very real way.
Lou went on to wear yellow satin and carry daisies in my wedding. She went to California to love on shattered little girls in a residential home, standing in for a while as the mother they never had. She let them pound their little fists into her with the rage of years of abuse and neglect, all the while weeping for their hearts and their futures and the world that put them there. She married a really tall Dutch guy with a big heart and they built their home in the trenches of Grand Rapids, MI, where their arms are busy all the time scooping up the broken, working for solutions, and raising praises to the One who they will never give up hope in.
I just talked with my friend, Lou, the other day on Skype. She is 8 1/2 months pregnant with their first biological child, even as their heart-child (foster son) sits in limbo in the throws of the system, waiting to be approved by the state for the intensive emotional and behavioral therapy he needs. One child leaving their home, another coming, many tears and much weariness but still, my dear friend presses onward, never tiring of doing good.
I sometimes wonder where I would be without Lou. I wonder what my life would have looked like if every Christi@n I had ever known had asked me to leave.
Thankfully, I'll never find out.