The Story of a Dining Hall

It was my first night in Athens. I had just packed up everything I needed in my car, drove to a new city, said goodbye to my parents, and moved in to a room the size of a walk-in closet. It was a hot day in August and I was exhausted from hauling an oversized mini-fridge up too many flights of stairs. On top of that, I was sharing that closet for the next year of my life with a guy I’d barely met. It felt like the first day of camp, the whole world seemed surreal.

It also felt like yesterday.

Tomorrow, I will graduate.

Reflecting back on the last for years has brought one unavoidable conclusion. I could never even dream up the plans God had for me. The story I want to share with you today is a story of connection. It’s a story that explains how I met my best friends, became president of a fraternity (which was probably the last thing I thought I would do in college), and even accepted a full-time job offer. It all started in a dining hall…

If you’ve never been to Revoltin’ Bolton you only need two facts to understand the dining hall. It’s nickname and the fact that the food hasn’t changed since my dad ate there when he was at UGA. Needless to say, it’s not a five-star attraction in Athens. But it was the closest dining hall to our dorm and it’s where all the freshmen go to eat so my roommate Will and I headed that way for dinner on our first night in Athens.

We got there and tried our best to act like we knew what we were doing until we realized that the other 500 people in there were clueless too. After we got our food we decided to be social and look for a table of people we could join (which if you know me and my roommate Will, that’s a miracle itself).

Anyway we found two guys sitting at a large table and asked if we could join them.  They introduced themselves as Chris and Austin and we began a great conversation. Surprisingly they were both juniors so they told us about UGA and what to look for on campus. They were both Christians and we talked about how to get involved in campus ministries. They were both part of what seemed like an oxymoron to me – a Christian fraternity. They explained what BYX is and how it connected them to other Christians on campus.

They didn’t try to convince us to join anything, they simply helped us navigate through those first few weeks of freshman year. Later in the evening they brought us a TV cable that we had forgotten to bring with us to Athens. They took us to Walmart and showed us around the city. They took the time to make a couple of freshmen’s college orientation just a little bit easier.

It was because of the example of Christ-like love Chris and Austin displayed that I started looking for information about BYX. Shortly after that we met two other guys on my hall who were rushing that semester and I ended up going with them to some BYX events. Through BYX I met Justin who was leading a college ministry in Atlanta. He asked me to get involved one summer, which introduced me to the Church that I have served at for three years. That same opportunity connected me to the company where I’m starting a full-time job this June.

It was that encounter at the dining hall that introduced me to all of my best friends in college. It led me to a new focus in my education and opportunities for leadership. It led me to mentors, summer jobs and internships in places I couldn’t imagine. It led me to a company and a vocational calling.

It led me to a college experience that I didn’t know to ask for, couldn’t have planned myself and would not trade for anything in the world.

I think what I’m trying to say is that “it” wasn’t chance or luck. “It” was Him. It was God. It was His sovereign plan all along. It will be His guidance that takes me home.  The last four years of my life have been a series of divinely orchestrated events leading to extraordinary and unexpected opportunity. I’m confident the next forty will be the same!

I will never forget that it all started at a dining hall…

So let me ask you this: What dining hall moment will you have this week?

What divinely orchestrated dinner could fundamentally alter the direction of your life?

Maybe more importantly, what opportunity will you take to change someone else’s life?