Beauty in the Midst of Struggle

Seeing as finals are in full swing, I figured what was a better use of my time than to post a reflection blog on my most thought-provoking class this semester.  (Mom and Dad, I had it written way earlier, I’m just posting it now. Pinky promise.)

My life this past week preparing for finals and writing final papers.  P.S. I love that my Bible is required to do some of my homework.
My life this past week preparing for finals and writing final papers. P.S. I love that my Bible is required to do some of my homework.

History and Literature of the New Testament is one of my most challenging classes this semester.  Not because I don’t understand the material and do poorly on the tests, on the contrary I understand the material quite well and have done very well on the papers and exams.  The struggle I have is that being the naïve freshman who I am, when I was searching for classes in August, I saw this class about the New Testament and thought, “How cool is that? We will read the entire New Testament and it will be a great way to encourage me to be diligent about spending time in the word daily!”  Without hesitation, I signed up.

On the first day, the professor asked us, “What is the difference between the Old and New Testaments?” I thought, “Oh goodie, I know the answer to this question.”  I waited for other people to respond for a little and then raised my hand and said something to the effect of, “The Old Testament is the time leading up to Jesus’ birth, in which many prophecies and promises were made, and the New Testament is after Jesus’ birth, and it documents his ministry and the effects of it, as well as the promises and prophecies made in the Old Testament coming true in the New Testament.”  My professor responded and said, “Well some people believe that, but it is a very theological view of it…When answering in this class it is important to avoid speaking with theologically based answers”  She went on to tell us the right answer, which was pretty darn close to what I had said.  After that class, I was in a quandary. How was I going to answer questions with the answer she was looking for, when I only knew one answer, which apparently was too steeped in Christian theology?  How could I disassociate what I had learned and believe to be true from how I answer questions on the New Testament?  Was I going to be graded down if I accidentally said something that was too theological?

She assigned a twelve page self inventory on the first day of class due in a week; by next class four people had dropped, leaving twelve students in the class. I seriously debated dropping it as well.  Subsequently I talked to some of the people who dropped, and they said it was just going to be too hard for them to not speak theologically, plus the twelve page paper did not motivate them to stay in the class either. So one week in, I wasn’t alone in my doubt.

While I was completing the paper, I happened to google my professor, as I wanted to see if she was a contributor to the textbook we were using.  What I found was overwhelming at first.  My professor had been an Episcopalian priest who was defrocked in 2009, for becoming a Muslim in 2006.  Reading on, I found an interview in which she stated, “I am both Muslim and Christian, just like I’m both an American of African descent and a woman. I’m 100 percent both.”  I was so surprised.  My first thought was, “How does that even work? The two religions are fundamentally different.”  My thoughts then progressed to “Oh my goodness, I’m taking a New Testament class from someone who is both Muslim and Christian.  We are very possibly going to have differing opinions on many topics. Should I drop it?”  Farther down in the article it mentions that, “She calls Christianity the ‘world religion of privilege.’”  After reading that, I was so bummed.  Here I am, a white, female, Christian, from Southern California, going to a prestigious private school in Washington, with a professor who believes that Christianity is the religion of privilege.  Based off of my appearance and my much too theologically based answer on the first day, I was sure she had a great opinion of me.

I debated about dropping the class for two weeks.  I dreaded going to class and having to monitor how I participated in class for theological biases, when all I know is theologically based.  I felt that it was slightly ironic, being at a liberal arts college that strives to be inclusive of all people and beliefs, that I had to make sure to not over share what I knew and believed to be true about the New Testament.  The only nice thing was that I knew to take whatever she said, and for that matter, whatever was in the textbook, with a grain of salt, because the class wasn’t taught from a theological background, as I had naïvely expected it to be.

In the end, I decided to not drop the class.  I felt like God led me to be in that class for some reason, whether to strengthen my own faith, or be a witness to others, or something completely different, I felt called to stay.  I have no idea whether I will get graded down for my Christian upbringing coming out in my opinions in my papers, since we haven’t gotten any back yet.  Who knows?  All I know is that it will all work out somehow.

It has taken me almost an entire semester to realize the beauty of this class being taught on my campus.  I don’t go to a Christian school, in fact, 4 years ago, it was almost the opposite.  Four years ago, there was a group of about ten believers that met on campus for fellowship.  There might have been more who didn’t show up, but then in a student body of 2,500 is a small minority.  Now there are about 200 believers that meet regularly between the three Christian clubs on campus.  God is moving on this campus, and I’m so glad to be up here and be a part of it.

Anyway, when talking with my mom about this class, she said, “Linds, this might be a challenging class for you, but think about it. There are people in your class that are reading the New Testament for the first time.  God’s word is present in your class and you have no idea how He will use this opportunity to impact lives.”  She helped me see the beauty in the class, even though it might be a trial for me.  There are twelve people who meet twice a week for an hour and a half to discuss the history of the New Testament, all while reading the entire New Testament as required reading.  We all come different faiths and walks of life, but each of us is reading the Bible.  Going to class is so much more joyful and exciting once I put my perspective in line with God’s greater plan.

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36.4 Pounds of Mail, One Important Decision

In the past one and a half years, I have received right around 36.4 pounds of college mail.  36.4 pounds!!!! Makes me wonder how many trees were murdered in the hopeful, but probably highly unsuccessful, quest to find applicants.

November came and the first round of applications were due.  I had been writing essays all summer, but the date still crept up on me a little.  Never the less, I got them all in on time, and began waiting.  I have never been so excited to receive mail in my life.  Eagerly, after about two weeks, every day, after practice,  before setting foot inside, I would peer nervously into the mailbox, hoping that there was a big fat letter in there for me.  Then one day, two big, fat, official looking acceptance letters came.  It was like Christmas had come a couple of weeks early. I was beyond excited! I knew for sure that I had somewhere to go next year. What a relief.

December and January were filled with round two of applications, the holidays, and family.  A couple more acceptance letters came in, and I was excited to see how my hard work was paying off. In late January, my family took a trip to visit Baylor and Vanderbilt.  We all fell in love with Vanderbilt.  My sister said,” Might as well buy my sweatshirt now, cause this is where you are going.”  She made a bet with me before the trip, that for some reason I don’t recall making, but the bet said that if she called the school I ended up attending, I would have to buy her a sweatshirt. The school and the trip were perfect.  Well, except for the fact that it was 17 degrees the entire time we were there. (Side note: I have never been so thankful for the humidity and 60 degree weather that we had when we got back home). I was so excited to have found my number one school.

February brought more waiting, scholarship essays, more thinking, and a trip to University of Denver with my dad.  Denver was amazing.  My dad and I had a great time touring the campus and exploring the area around Denver.  It was such a nice opportunity to be able to go on a daddy daughter trip.  We were both impressed with the program that DU had, and especially a selective leadership program in which, if admitted, you live and take classes on leadership with a group of 65 other students, and in the end graduate with a minor in Leadership Studies.

 

April has been an interesting month.  I didn’t get into Vanderbilt and Brown, both of which I  was surprisingly okay with.  All throughout my college search and application process, both my parents and my prayer has been that God would guide me to where He wanted me.  Though it stung a little to get those first rejection letters, I decided to not look at them as rejection letters, but as God closing doors, so He can lead me to the right ones.  In the end of April, my mom, sister and I took a girls trip to tour my final two schools: Lewis and Clark College and University of Puget Sound.  We saw the schools, explored some state parks, and took in the sights of Washington and Oregon.

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I got to meet up with the track coach at Puget Sound to talk about the possibilities of running on his track team.  I went into the meeting expecting to be rejected politely because I am a JV level athlete.  Not exactly the kind of caliber that I assumed all college coaches would be looking for.  I was taken aback when he said that he doesn’t look at times for incoming freshman, all he requires is a good attitude and a willingness to put the effort into getting better.  He never asked for my marks and PRs.  And the team was so welcoming and just plain awesome.

By the end of the trip, I had narrowed my choices down to Denver and Puget Sound.  When I got home, I found out that I was wait listed for the leadership program at Denver and there was a technical difficulty with my application for the Honors program at Denver as well, so I wouldn’t know until after Commitment Day (May 1st) if I would be able to participate in those programs.

After some more research, prayer, deliberation, and lengthy conversations I decided last night on University of Puget Sound.  The funny thing about it is that, I applied to UPS last-minute because I thought the campus was pretty, had heard great things about it at a college fair for it and its sister schools, and they offered me a free application.  When I applied, I had no intention of actually attending.  I guess the pounds of mail, billions of emails, and the numerous phone calls each year are successful; they helped put Puget Sound on the radar for me, and I couldn’t be happier about my decision.

 

Significantly Insignificant

Romans 1:20 says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”  There is never a time that I am not floored by the evidence of God’s creation in nature, whether it be when I am looking at Grand Prismatic Springs in Yellowstone, or a tiny protein with a very specific job in the body, essential for survival.  When one looks at the specificity of everything in nature, it is very hard(impossible for me) to believe that creation happened randomly.  If you can’t tell, I am a total science nerd.  I am unashamedly and completely fascinated by microscopic organelles in cells, the stars in the sky, and the entire universe.

That being said, I watched this video at a Campus Crusades for Christ meeting on Thursday and had to share and write about  it.  I loved it for so many reasons. The first being that it wove science and faith together seamlessly with great analogies.  Second, it realigned my view of myself and the world as a whole.  I was reminded of just how significantly insignificant I truly am and that I am a child of a great big God; the God who created the universe, who breathed the stars into existence.

“Though we are but a vapor, you and me, and tiny and frail, we are marked by Majesty, and we have been created in the very image of the God who breathes out the stars and put the universe into place, you and I are fashioned and formed and ordained by the God of all creation. We are fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Louie Giglio repeatedly compares the Earth to a golf ball, with every person being but a speck on that tiny golf ball.  But because we are set apart by God, He has given us tools and a task to accomplish.  It makes me so humble to think that, I, just a tiny speck on the golf ball of the Earth, have been thought into creation, with a purpose, by a God who made the entire universe in its vastness.

His message is long, but bear with me, it is way worth it. Feel free to comment with your thoughts or send me a message, I would love to know what you think.  Without further ado, I give you Louie Giglio.

 

 

The Definition of You

Someone once told me that the definition of a person can be found by examining what they talk about most.  I had to ponder it for a while, until I saw the truth in what they had said.  It wasn’t what I wanted to hear, because I defined myself as a vastly different person with different values, than the one whom my friends would speak of based off of what I talked about most.  Granted, I know there is more to a person’s characteristics and definition, per se, than JUST what they talk about, but it was still really interesting to think about.  If I want to influence people, shouldn’t what I talk about be right on par with whom I want to be and am?  My speech shouldn’t be filled with complaints, if I am really an optimistic and content person that just doesn’t voice my happiness as much as my complaints.  If I consider myself a Christian, why don’t I talk about it more often?

The answer plain and simple is that I have a habit of putting God in a God box, only to be opened on Wednesdays and Sundays, and I pray that I am alone in this struggle and that everyone else is a pro at letting God be in every part of their lives, but I fear that is not the case.  I compartmentalize my faith way too often, and it is like a sickness that needs a cure.  I’m getting better about it, but there is no one time cure, it takes diligence and perseverance.  Studies have shown that 70% of church attending Christians will graduate high school and stop attending church.  Of that seventy percent, only half will return in their lifetime.   What happens when that somewhat mandatory opening of the God box goes away?  What happens when, now, the students can dictate their own lives and schedules?  The God box get shoved in the back of the attic of life, right next to broken relationships and old forgotten passions.

Time goes on and they forget what a relationship with God is like, and decide that they can get on without one.  And they never go back.  Or they have a crisis that sends them searching for any semblance of who they used to be, and they find the God box, dusty after all those unopened years, and open it on a last resort.  Hopefully, they rediscover the wonder and crave a relationship with Him again.

Both situations could be avoided, though, and that is the sad part.  It is awful to think that there is a chance that we could save people from going through this, if we all just talked about our faith a little more.  I’m not saying we need to introduce ourselves and say, “Hi! My name is ______. Have you heard about Jesus?” All I’m saying is that, at least for me, there are moments when I should be more open about my faith and welcome questions about it.  I need to stop thinking about being labeled as a “Jesus Freak”, and just accept it.  I would rather be sharing my faith and be called a Jesus Freak, then be quiet about it and still be thought of as a Jesus Freak because I don’t cuss, drink, or party and I go to church.

So what defines you?  Is it what your friends would say as well?  If is your faith?  Or is it something else?  Don’t let society be the first to define you, beat them to it and define yourself through your actions and words.

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