An Open Letter To Myself, a Christian College Student
Howdy everybody! Remember me? July? That girl who used to post on her blog every once and a while? Well, I'm back, and I know I say this every time, but hopefully this time I'm back for good. This past year has been a crazy year (a post should be coming out shortly detailing my year), but the good news is, I'm finally a high school GRADUATE! Yes, I graduated. That means that college is right around the corner for me and I need to start making some really big decisions about my future.... *shudders* Wellllll, let's not talk about that right now.
Anyway, I recently wrote a letter to myself of thoughts and tidbits that I want to take with me to college, and although it's quite personal, I wanted to share it (a slightly edited version) here anyway. Hopefully many years down the road when I'm looking back at this blog, I'll read this post and remember where I was in life in the time between high school and college. So I suppose this post is more for me than it is for you, but enjoy anyway if you decide to continue reading!
Accept Grace and Plant Sequoias
Now that my senior year is over and I am looking forward to heading off to college in the fall, I have grown personally and spiritually and decided that I want to use what I’ve learned to continue personal and communal growth. As Wendell Berry recommends in his manifesto, I want to “plant sequoias” of grace not only within myself, but in and around others too.
I want to start by planting personal sequoias of vulnerability. This past year I have learned a lot about vulnerability and I want to carry that on with me to college by challenging myself to be more vulnerable. Most importantly, I want to stop letting anxiety and fear keep me from being exactly the person I was created me to be. I want to “let be” like Hamlet and stop worrying so much so I can be in the moment. These past few years have shown me that my anxiety is actually a “fearsome blessing” as Buechner puts it and God’s grace and love have flown through my life as He teaches me trust. As the poem “As Kingfisher’s Catch Fire” has revealed to me, the key to living into my identity is to remember that I was created for a purpose by God; therefore, God wants me to do and be exactly that. In order to do that, I need to put down anxiety and accept grace.
Let’s talk about grace for a minute. God has taught me so much about himself this past year, especially about his grace. First of all, it’s okay to doubt him. In fact, it’s perfectly normal and an important part of having faith. Flannery O’Connor says in her letter to Alfred Corn, a struggling college student, “this experience you are having of losing your faith, or as you think, of having lost it, is an experience that in the long run belongs to faith.” Next year, I will be “bombarded with new ideas” that may cause me to doubt faith, but I need to remember to try not to put God in my “intellectual categories” because he is way more complex and bigger than I ever could comprehend. Sometimes, I might doubt because I don’t know everything, but again, O’Connor says, “faith is what you have in the absence of knowledge.” God’s grace also comes through free-will, which was created so love could exist. Because of free-will, God knows that we’re going to doubt him. A truth that Robert Fink points out is that He knows that we’re fallen sinners, and He “expected Adam and Eve to eat the apple,” but God gives us a “second chance.” God reaches down with his grace and forgives our sins because he loves us and wants us to have second chance.
In planting my communal sequoias in college, I want to focus on grace there too. I want to help create a community at college where everyone can live into their personal identities and where we can all build bridges between each other and become one. My goal for my college community is that we can help each other live into ourselves without fear of judgement or rejection. I also hope we can rely on each other for support through tough times and celebrate together in good times. I also need to learn to trust my community in college because putting my trust solely in myself is a setup for failure; putting it in community, a success. Once we can learn to trust each other, we are no longer only islands, but bridges are built and a unified community is formed for the glory of God.
I want to show that I care for others by being a smiling face on campus or taking time out of my day to just have a conversation with someone who I wouldn’t normally talk to. I want to be the person like Ailred that Buechner writes about in his book, Godric. Someone who allows others to talk about anything and just listens without passing judgement. I want my kind of listening to be “a kind of talking” so that I can be a true friend who listens, doesn’t judge, and offers honest advice.
The most important truth I want to carry with me about grace that encompasses my personal and communal sequoias is Buechner’s point that “all’s lost. All’s found.” Everything is lost by sin, but everything is found by grace. We are all sinners saved by grace, and the knowledge of that is the main message of Christianity. By planting my sequoias this upcoming year I hope I can make a difference that brings shalom to chaos in my own world and the world of my community.