I’m back in. My graduate program launched this week at Cornerstone University. I took a class at Grand Valley last summer thinking I could get my Master’s degree in English Education. Although I would love that degree and–who knows?–possibly get it someday, I found Cornerstone’s program to be better suited for my life right now. For many reasons, I run races against the clock, trying with sweat and tears to win every single time. I put crazy deadlines on myself and work too quickly (and most often less effectively) just for the sake of speed. I surrendered to the Grand Valley program, knowing I couldn’t finish the program proudly AND live the life as a mom that I believe is crucial for healthy family life. Somethin’ hadda give. After taking a few months off, waiting for my cohort to get off the ground, I’m back at the computer. Only this time, I’m completing an online degree that should take me less than two years from a university that is already challenging me in every way.
It’s been eighteen years since I attended Trinity Episcopal School in seventh and eighth grade. That’s the last time I attended a Christian school. Sure, Hope was religious, and my years there contained spiritual growth on many levels. But, technically, Hope is not a Christian school; Christ was not discussed openly in most classrooms, especially education classes. So I was very surprised when I read my first paper assignment in a class titled “Issues in Education”: a Christian worldview paper. For me, as a writer, it felt like getting a prize. Or, at the very least, a big lollipop. I felt privileged to receive such a wonderful assignment, especially after so much has changed in my spiritual life since attending Engedi. I enjoyed every bit of writing this paper, starting at JP’s high top internet tables and ending with a papery sprawl across my couch, books and notebooks laying about. If you’re interested, here’s what I believe. And I can actually say I’m really, really proud of it.
Issues in Education
July 14, 2011
I grew up repeating the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed in church–usually from memory but often holding the hymnal closely to my face so I could hide the funny faces I would make from my father, the robed pastor standing in the podium up front. “We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth…”. I could usually hold it together until we collectively reached the phrase, “Very God of Very God.” That made little sense to me. However, at twenty-eight years old, I believe the words of these creeds beautifully simplify the Christian faith. As the creed states, “[Jesus] suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.” I even find similar wisdom and truth in a contemporary rap artist Trip Lee’s song “Invasion”: “Creation’s groaning, lost their hope and feel they always closed in Lots to cope with, on the ropes, wish they was in the open This broken world is so dim, our souls are searching, groping For one with hope to hold us close, and set goodness in motion”. Since Christ’s Resurrection, believers have been writing, speaking, meeting, discussing, and wrestling with the meaning of the Good News and the best way to accept it, live it, and share it. My place in Christian history has not always felt like solid ground. I struggled as a young religion student in college, questioning the very teachings on which I’d built my life. I ran away from church, only to come slowly back to the pews that once felt suffocating. God has used my young adulthood to refine me, test me, and ultimately bring me exactly to where I need to be: home at the foot of the cross.
Years ago at Hope College, before I began attending in 2000, I visited while Ben Patterson was the chaplain. Mr. Patterson stood before a crowded chapel; students even lined the aisles sitting Indian-style with backpacks in their lap. He held his Bible in the air as if were a newly won trophy. Students would do the same repeating these words: “This is my Bible. I am what it says I am. I have what it says I have. I can do what it says I can do…”. Even though I was moved and convicted at the time, it wasn’t until recently that I believed the Bible to be that authoritative. Throughout my life, I have felt close to God through Christ, but, if pressed, I couldn’t defend the Bible as being flawless and divine. I allowed adult influences in my life to shape my beliefs, giving human beings more spiritual authority than any person should possess. Thankfully, God is patient. He brought through those particularly doubt-ridden years. I now fully believe that God has made himself known in the Bible, trusting anointed human beings to tell His story. The Bible is complete and without error, directly from God as a means to understand His divine purposes for humankind and the world that we oversee.
Through Scripture, God has made it clear that He is three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each is a critical part that completes the others, but He is one God, unified in these three forms. His character is flawless, and He seeks relationship and connection with all of His creation. Genesis explains clearly that the world is in an infected state, disconnected from God’s faultless plan for humanity. As a perfect Father, God allows human beings to suffer the consequences of sin.
And therein lies the story we find ourselves. The consequences of sin result in heinous darkness and pain so deep, it is easy to question why a loving God could ever allow it. But, as Jesus preached about and Revelation teaches, the story does not stop here. God has an agenda. As demonstrated on Calvary, God is in the restoration process. God’s plan to sacrifice his Son was set forth when Eve took the fruit, so that all sin will be abolished and all truth made fully known. The greatest honor I can imagine is that this indescribable, omniscient God made me—a mere human being—in his amazing, creative likeness, and He uses me to help restore the world despite the sin that blackens me. And with this gift comes the responsibility to know Him, love Him, serve Him, and accept His Son, who, as Christian singer Andrew Peterson puts it, has “beaten death at death’s own game”.
Although the end of God’s story has been poured out in Scripture, we’re living somewhere in the middle. Christ’s resurrection changed the course of human history, and it certainly was the pinnacle of God’s agenda for his created world. However, the Holy Spirit isn’t the only spiritual presence that we’re surrounded by. There is an enemy that is responsible for the fall of man and for every ounce of painful imperfection that has ever existed. Because of pride, human beings are born sinful and live lives fighting a personal war between good and evil. I see this in my own three-year-old son who, without love, guidance, and correction, would easily become a wild menace. I see this in the walls of schools: cheating on tests, pregnant teenagers, gangs, discrimination, and, occasionally and heartbreakingly, guns shooting at fellow classmates. Evil has been running rampant since humans have touched soil, and it is woven into human nature. It accounts for the smallest sins of a young child taking a toy from another to the largest ones resulting in massacre. I believe the greatest way to combat the evil is to accept Christ as the Redeemer and live according to His teachings and the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5: love, joy, peace, forgiveness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These actions, whether they are exerted in governmental policy or in a child’s sincere apology, glorify God and work to advance the Kingdom that is on its way.
Life is sacred by nature, but it is also fleeting. Time on earth is temporary, despite anyone’s duration; and regardless of a person’s spiritual beliefs, there comes a time when the deepest parts of the human soul ruminate on this question: what’s next? As a Christian, I believe that heaven is real and has always been. I recently read a New York Times bestseller titled “Heaven is for Real”, an account of an Iowa pastor and his son who had died for a short time and claimed to visit heaven. The book enthralled me, but not because it was a descriptive, eccentric account of the seemingly physical aspects of heaven. There were details, and they were interesting. But, what stunned me most about this boy’s story was his fixation on Christ. His story did not contradict the Bible, and after researching interviews of this child and his family, I learned that this story comes from humble farmers who were shockingly surprised to learn of their son’s divine experience. It doesn’t take more than an internet search to find many “divine encounters” people have claimed to have in regards to the afterlife. Perhaps many are true. But, this story spoke to my heart and gave me hope that, quite honestly, I should only look to Scripture for. I believe that the Kingdom of God is everything the Bible explains it to be, and our lives on earth play a critical role in determining where we head next. Because our souls are eternal, and our lives dictate the decision that God makes when we stand before His throne, it is imperative that we live wholly and desperately for Jesus.
Although I feel like my Christian worldview has taken shape, and I can sink into my beliefs as my roots go further down into Scripture, I realize that I’m on one leg of my hopefully long journey. Every season of life brings change and challenge, and perhaps these views might shift in flight. But, the awareness that Christ is alive as King certainly shapes my perspective on everything I do. This reality is my motivation to live, and my reason to become the greatest version of myself. This life is not about me; it’s about Christ and those He has called me to serve. Whether it’s my own family, a classroom of students, a colleague at a lunch table, or an orphan across the world…all of my actions are to be anchored in one purpose: to serve the One who sent me and, therefore, to always end up at the foot of the cross.