It was Thursday and the plan was to go for some conversations at the campus. Like almost every week about 5-10 students and staff meet at 12:45, we pray together and then we go for some conversations. We usually go two by two.
That day 9 people were present. So I decided to stay and pray for the others and maybe go for one conversation by myself. I prayed and waited near the Aula of the campus at the entrance. It is easier to go two by two and more challenging to approach students alone. While I was praying for the others I asked God to give me the courage and some guidance.
I don’t know how these things work but I sensed I should take a walk to see if there is any student I could talk to. I entered the restaurant area, which is packed during lunchtime, and I saw a student having his lunch. I approached and asked if he would be willing to answer some questions about the meaning of life and God. I identified myself as a Christian working with StudentLife, a student organization. The student was friendly and said, “Yes, sure, we can talk.”
The student shared about his studies, his interests and hobbies outside his studies, and about his social life. He came across as someone who likes his studies in nanobiology very much. He also has a wide area of interests such as reading historical politics, art with 3D generator, and hanging out with good friends. I asked about the 3D generator and he said to look for “animated biology of the cell” at YouTube. I watched a few clips and it is amazing, however, I am not sure which ones are his videos.
Meaning in life for him is to improve other people’s lives, help them become better. He values honesty, being happy in life, and equality. About life after death, he thought life just ends the moment someone dies. The body is a vessel of the brain. About God, he thought that there are many different interpretations and misinterpretations. Therefore he is at the moment more of an agnostic.
An amusing moment came when I asked him what he thinks about Jesus. How can we know what is true after 2000 years, he said. But Jesus came across to him as hot-headed, getting easily angry for small things, like talking to a fig tree and then cursing it. I laughed and agreed that this is an interesting moment in Jesus’ life. I think he was surprised that I responded in a relaxed way. He also said that people say that Jesus was the Son of God. But this is more what people said about him and not how Jesus identified himself. It just became a good story. We shortly talked about how much and on what basis we can trust history since he loved reading it. He mentioned that historiography – the study of the writing of history and of historical texts – helps uncover historical truths. I agreed and noted that we can do the same with the Bible as a document and find out how reliable it is.
He had a good insight into the question “what do you think Jesus was trying to do?” He said, “people were focused too much on rules. Jesus helped them understand the spirit behind these rules.” I told him that some of his thoughts show that he has more knowledge about the Bible than many students I talk to. I became curious about his background. And here came the bomb: “I am the son of a minister of the gospel.” My heart went out to this student! I felt compassion for him. I could identify and understand him very well.
The last question in the questionnaire was this, “if it were possible, would you want to know God in a personal way? Why?” He said, “I think God’s attention will go more to other people, maybe other people need him more than me.” I asked him to explain more about this. What he said at this moment made me feel sad, something broke inside of me, I sensed that he was struggling with his understanding of who God is and how God relates with human beings. He said clear and short, “I don’t think I am worthy enough or miserable enough to have God’s attention.”
I hope this student will realise sooner or later that God is reaching out to him, and that this conversation was not by chance. It was a reminder in the middle of nowhere, out of the blue, that God loves him. Yes, I dare to say, God loves him! Anyone who struggles with this phrase may have a picture of God in his mind as distant, cold, and impersonal. Not the God Jesus came to reveal. Luke reminds us what Jesus said about God, that God is loving and reaching out to lost people:
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.Luke 19:10