First, I want to thank you all for the encouragement and inspiration you have been to me this semester. I have been refreshed by your humility, shown through the vulnerability of not pretending that you have it all together. I have been challenged by your sincere desire to fight complacency and to be agents of God’s kingdom wherever he calls you. I have been blessed by your insights into the paradoxes of the Christian life, and I feel honored that you invited me to become a part of your lives this semester.
As I write you this post, I want you to know that I don’t pretend that I have things figured out. I have had many ups and downs in my four years at Gordon, and I am far from a perfect example. With that being said though, I have seen God’s hand in my life throughout my time at Gordon, chiseling away at all the parts of me that don’t resemble him, beginning that long process of becoming like Christ that will only be completed when this life is over. I hope that the things I share will be encouraging to you as you continue to pursue Christ and his kingdom during your time at Gordon and beyond.
As I shared with you in class, fear of loneliness has always been one of my most crippling fears, and as a result of this fear, I have often succumbed to the sin of idolizing relationships. When I first arrived at Gordon, I was terrified that I would not make friends. As a person with a shyer, quiet personality, the prospect of “putting myself out there” clashed with who I was. For a while, I strove to make friends according to the extroverted paradigm, all the while feeling drained, fake, and…still friendless. But in spite of myself, God provided for me, showing me that he is the giver of all good gifts. One rainy day while feeling especially lonely, I “coincidentally” ran into a girl from my Old Testament class while walking down the hill. Long story short, she became one of my closest and most faithful friends here at Gordon. I am convinced that our meeting was not a coincidence, but a gift from God. As I reflect on meeting my friend Christa, it reminds me that it is idolatry to treat relationships as my primary source of strength. So often, I tend to focus on the gift of relationships rather than on the Giver. At the core, my fear of loneliness stems from the desire for intimacy, to be known completely, and this can never be found in humans. I still struggle with the fear of loneliness, but I have learned now that this desire points to a longing for God, not for humans. God will provide for you relationally, but if you are not feeling fulfilled in your friendships, remember that no matter how deep and intimate your relationships are, they will never fill that desire for intimacy that God has placed in the heart of every man and woman.
The Myth of “The Best Four Years of Your Life!”
You’ve probably heard a variation of this myth. I believed it up until this year. “Enjoy your time in college…when you get into the real world, things will be a whole lot harder!” “College was the best four years of my life…what I wouldn’t give to go back…” These statements, given by well-meaning family members and friends, are meant to be encouragements as they send you off to this magical world called college, but in reality, they place unrealistic expectations on this short period of time. As most of you have probably already realized, college can be a great place, but it can also be very difficult. What your family members didn’t tell you when they nostalgically looked back on their college days was that life is life wherever you go, and that in reality, for many people, college is the four hardest years of their lives. I came to Gordon with expectations of fairy tale proportions: college was going to be a perpetual hang-out session with friends, going on late night adventures full of carefree abandon. And it’s true, I have had many late night adventures, but I have also had late night panic attacks and early morning fears. Academics are a job, like anything else, and just because you don’t “go to work” at a nine to five job doesn’t make the stresses you go through as a student any less legitimate. So this is what I have learned: 1. College, like any other part of life, has its ups and downs, pluses and minuses. But God is faithful in every situation we find ourselves in and will work through the hard things to show us who he is and make us more like him. 2. Life does not end after college! (At least I hope notJ) I think that the assertion that college is “the best four years of your life” implies that life after college is boring drudgery. I completely disagree with this. Responsibilities may change with graduation (as I soon will find out), but as I step out into the “real world” as a college grad, I am more excited than ever about fulfilling the calling God has for my life.
The Wonderful Place Called the Counseling Center
I am a huge fan of the counseling center, and it is such an underutilized resource at Gordon! I have been so blessed by the godly wisdom of my counselor as she has helped me process my struggles and give me sound counsel on how to grow through trials. I would highly recommend that if you are going through a struggle, whether big or small, that you sign up to talk with a counselor.
Gordon: Your Overcommitted Life!
I don’t know if they still use this motto on admissions advertisements, but when I was applying, the mantra was “Your Adventurous Life.” Sometimes I think that “Your Overcommitted Life” would be a better description of Gordon, but this probably wouldn’t attract as many students. I have found that at a small, competitive school like Gordon, it is easy to get caught up in the “compare and overcommit game.” Now don’t get me wrong, there are so many amazing opportunities to serve and get involved at our lovely little school on the North Shore, but with the load of activities that the average Gordon students takes on, I am surprised that more students don’t completely burn out. I have found that when I overcommit myself, I am not able to enjoy or do a good job at anything I do. As an example, I was an RA last year and also the leader of the Linguistics club. Now some people might be able to handle both responsibilities well, but I found that although I loved Linguistics, I dreaded planning for club meetings because I didn’t feel I had the time to do a good job at it. This is where not comparing yourself to others comes in. Like I said, some people might be able to take on two responsibilities like this, but I am just not wired this way. After doing one 18 credit semester, I realized that it was hard for me to handle, and since then, I have only done 16 and 14 credit semesters. For me the key is being able to fully invest your heart and time into whatever you do, and this might mean cutting back on a lot of great activities.
God’s Presence versus His Plan
I want to close by sharing with you something Professor Barthold (a philosophy prof.) shared at an event I recently attended. She talked about how it was important to seek God’s presence over his plan. This has always been a struggle for me, a planner who likes control a little too much. In seeking only God’s “plan” for us, in the sense of “what job should I take?” and “what should I do with my life” completely misses the relationship between us and God that is meant to be the centerpiece of the Christian life. I was challenged by Dr. Barthold’s words to reframe my view of the future. The future’s many possibilities and my lack of control in what happens to me somehow doesn’t seem so scary when I know that I can have the constant assurance of God’s presence with me.
So friends, these thoughts only scratch the surface of all that God has been teaching me through these past four years at Gordon, and I am confident that he is working in each of your lives in the same way even if you can’t see it right now. If you have any specific questions you would like me to answer that I didn’t address, please leave me a comment and I will do my best to answer. As you continue on your journey with Christ, be encouraged that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. So wherever you are, joyful or in despair, peaceful or struggling with confusion, know that he who has called you loves you with an everlasting love and is faithful to finish the beautiful work of his grace that he has begun in you.
Our Amazing TGC Class
Photo Credit: Janine Sirois