It is hard to believe that 23 days from now, I will walk across the stage in Bill George Arena and receive my diploma. Well, it will actually just be an empty cover – but you get my point: I am graduating.
When I came to John Brown University in August of 2009, I was in some ways a very different person. I had lived a life that was consistent and safe, and I was used to that. I came to college to get a degree. What I did not know is that there was also a lot I needed to learn about myself and how I see the world.
And so now, as I prepare to bid farewell to this place, which has impacted me so greatly, I want to simply look back and share some of the lessons I have learned along the way.
1. Accepting God’s Grace. I am so thankful to God for the work He has done in my life through JBU. He has revolutionized my relationship with Him. In high school, I struggled with feelings of inadequacy, trying to earn my worthiness of God’s love.
Then one day here in the Cathedral of the Ozarks, God spoke to my heart and mind, showing me that He never expected that of me. He loves me for who I am, and His grace is sufficient to remove my imperfections.
This is still a journey I am on. But over the past two years, God has proven Himself faithful over and over, even in my weakness.
2. Recognizing Ambiguity. As a person whose top result on the freshman Strengths Finder was Belief, this is probably the hardest lesson for me to admit. I came in to college very sure that what I believed about a whole variety of issues created the right system for a Christian to hold.
Through a variety of classes, I discovered what should have been an obvious fact: That there are committed Christians on all sides of controversial questions.
It was not until last fall that I recognized what I had been doing before. My faith had been in having the right boxes checked on a beliefs questionnaire. Rather than primarily depending on a God who knew all the answers, no matter how confused we people are, I tried to make sure that I had nearly every theological question packed into a neat little box and placed on my mental shelf.
I am still completely certain that the basic Christian doctrines, such as those found in JBU’s statement of faith, are true. But I trust that my core of unquestionable beliefs has shrunk down to a more proper and less prideful size.
3. Listening to Others’ Stories. Over the past couple of years, I have become enthralled with peoples’ journeys of life. So often friends simply do things together or know one another on a rather shallow level.
But once in a while, you actually get the chance to hear someone tell his or her story about what has shaped them. That can give you a deeper context of what made people the way they are, or why they react to things the way they do.
A big piece of this for me has been my experience as a student journalist of listening to peoples’ stories so that I can share them in an article. Every time I do it, I wish it happened more naturally in my relationships with my friends.
So those are a few of the life lessons I have learned here. I want to conclude by thanking all of my professors. Thank you for making me think, for pushing me to look at what and why I believe. Also, to all of my friends: Thank you for your patience with me, as I have dealt with the ups and downs of my journey.
JBU, it has been a good four years. I’m sure I will be back to visit sometime, but it will never be quite the same. And so the journey continues.