I felt like the “weird new kid” when our family moved to Kent in 2012. I wasn’t a part of the church-planting team who moved from Bowling Green in 2008. But I wasn’t the traditional 18- or 19-year-old freshman on campus either. I had three kids in elementary school. I was a 35-year-old newcomer who preferred to measure distance in metric units and said “Indeed” too much.
It felt like I was always going to be the “weird new kid” forever.
But the seasons kept changing. Kent State University students came and went. I remember two students, named Rachel and Caleb, who were a part of the church when we first arrived. They were siblings, and their younger brother, named Nathan, was thinking about coming to Kent State University. I remember meeting Nathan and playing basketball with Nathan. We became friends over time, even though he was a college student and I was a middle-aged pastor.
A couple of years later — after Caleb and Rachel had graduated and Nathan became an upperclassman and student-leader in our church — I learned that another still-younger brother, named Seth, was thinking about coming to Kent State University. He was just as delightful as his older siblings. And I was glad to get to know him, too.
In the summer of 2016, Nathan and Seth joined the group from Kent who traveled to Colorado for our summer Leadership Training project. We went on hikes together. On one of those hikes, I remember talking with Nathan about a young woman to whom he was thinking about proposing. And eventually, they did get married. Rachel got married, too. Nathan and his wife Kailey started having kids. Rachel and her husband Tim started having kids. And then, yesterday they all came together. For the wedding of Seth and Julia.
Somehow, watching that wedding ceremony felt like a mile marker for me. Nathan, Kailey, Seth, and Julia were still in high school when our family first moved to Kent. But now I’ve watched them all start college. I’ve watched them all finish college. I’ve watched them move on to careers and marriages and families. And I’m still here, a pastor of H2O Church at Kent State University. Not the “weird new kid” any more! I’ve watched so much life unfold over the course of these last nine years. The effect is exaggerated because everyone else is moving, while I’m staying the same. I’m not young any more. But I enjoy watching youth flourish and mature into adulthood.
I feel happy. At peace. And I’m thankful that I’m not the weird new kid any more.