Fourth Year Reflection: Sam Kraus

Sam Kraus
Sam Kraus

When I Was a Young Warthog: A Reflection by Sam Kraus

I grew up as a missionary kid in Kijabe, Kenya. I attended a conservative boarding school for missionary kids designed for missionaries to serve in difficult places without compromising their kids’ education. For the purpose of titling this reflection, but mostly for my amusement, nostalgia, and fondness of Pumba and the rest of the characters in Disney’s award-winning masterpiece, The Lion King, I arrived at UVA as a young warthog. Having been unexposed to most of college culture, I was concerned about starting my first year. To put it bluntly, I was sheltered, and I was afraid of becoming unsheltered. At the same time, I thought I wasn’t just any other kid. I was a Missionary kid (with a capital M), here to convert sinners. So after unpacking in my dorm room, I left for the Study Center Move-In Day Lunch with a mental to-do list:

1.     Study hard (Look Mom! I put it as #1)

2.     Find friends who love Jesus

3.     Find friends who do not love Jesus

4.     Make my new friends love Jesus.

With this mindset, I explored Christian fellowships, found my place, and developed meaningful relationships within Christian community. By the end of my first semester, I was happy with my group of friends, but realized I had only done the first and second tasks on my list. I had mostly forgotten about the third and fourth, so I decided to go through the sacred and flawless tradition of fraternity rush (sarcasm heavily implied).

Going through rush, my biggest fear was being perceived as the archetypal judgmental Christian, but honestly I judged the skin off of everybody I met. I was so confused by the draw of binge drinking cheap beer, but I didn’t want my new friends to know that. I wanted to be cool! So I held my tongue while maintaining my holier-than-thou mentality. As much as Greek life baffled me, I discovered that I was good at networking and eventually I accepted a bid to my fraternity. This fit perfectly with my mission to force unbelievers into Christianity. As pledging began and I devoted a majority of my time to my new fraternity, my confusion about Greek and college culture only grew. I didn’t understand how sleep deprivation and peer pressure made me closer with my pledge class. I also didn’t understand why nobody wanted to come to my Bible study to which I’d invited them a dozen times, even though I never showed interest in their lives. What was wrong with them?

My confusion eventually turned inward, and I wondered if I was even supposed to be in a fraternity. I had enough friends in other places, so why was I paying money to this organization too? It wasn’t until my third year, when a close friend passed away and my fraternity brothers came around me to support me that I experienced how much they cared for me and how meaningful those relationships had become. I realized my friends in Greek life wanted the same things as everyone else: community and belonging. The only (monumental) difference between my friends in my fraternity and my friends in my Christian fellowship was Jesus.

Knowing I had my fraternity brothers’ support, my time in my fraternity became extraordinarily enjoyable and uniquely purposeful. Shoot, I even enjoyed being a brother! Parties were fun! Beer (consumed legally) tasted good! (Christian boys aren’t supposed to like those things, right?) I finally saw the commonalities between my fraternity brothers and myself. We had the same drive, same goals, and many of the same desires. And the reverse was true as well: I realized we all shared the same sinful nature. I stopped trying to convert my fraternity friends and instead tried my best to love Jesus and, in doing so, love others despite our outward differences. I am the same as everybody else. I am helpless, broken, and completely incapable of saving myself or anyone else. I am baffled that Jesus loved me first, but because he shows me his grace, I can be ecstatic to share that love with others. With this new understanding, I revised my mental to-do list to just one bullet point: Love Jesus.

In the midst of all this, the Study Center was a haven for me. There, I felt comfort with friends who knew Jesus and with friends who did not. I attended Bible studies and Greek InterVaristy with some of my fraternity brothers in the back room, and I studied hard towards my academic goals in the library upstairs. A few times I even took leftover Study Center snacks to my fraternity house for my brothers who were working equally hard on exams as those working  in the Study Center’s quiet spaces. (Nothing shows the love of Jesus like free Mellow Mushroom pizza.)

Oh, how wrong was I to declare my holiness among fellow flawed human beings. I wish I could go back and tell young warthog Sam just how disoriented I was to think of myself above others and judge every person I passed. To all current and future Hoos, these are my words to you: I hope you love your time at UVA as much as I did. Please do yourself a favor and invest in the incredible Christian fellowships we have and dwell at the Study Center. You will not regret your time in community. But also do not limit yourself. Find something you enjoy doing (there are so many clubs at UVA), love God, and chase your passion alongside people who do not know Jesus. Pursue humility, and lean into the truth that Jesus humbly took the form of a servant so that you and I can claim eternal life.

Sam Kraus, CLAS '17