Tia said I couldn’t use this title for my New Testament Extra Credit Reflection paper. She said nothing about my blog. So there.
Currently, I am sitting on a plane having just finished finals and moving out of my first apartment in NYC trying to process what the heck just happened. But by the time I probably publish this, it will have been a week or so since returning home.
This year has been crazy, let me tell ya. I have learned so much in the last nine months. So excuse me as I use this post as a processing agent.
Word to Incoming Students
Before I truly begin, I would like to say some things to incoming students — things I really wish I would have been aware of before moving to the city. First of all, if you are coming to King’s because you just want to live in New York and going to a Christian school was the only way your parents would allow it, you might need to seriously reassess your heart. King’s is HARD and New York is vicious. Both will eat you alive if you are not careful. I do not mean to say this as a deterrent but as advice. It is okay to be more excited about the city than for the school, I get that. But be aware that to survive both, you will need to really have your loves in order.
Second of all, none of your problems go away when you move out here. You only gain more. You might view New York as a romantic escape from the dysfunctional aspects of your life back home, but it is not. Moving to New York is also not an excuse to flex on all your friends back home, either.
New Appreciation for Learning
As summer break progresses and I am approached by more loved ones, I assume someone will ask: “how was New York?” While I wish I had a quick, easy answer to this, the truth is, I have no idea how to answer this question. New York was wild. It was a roller coaster. Perhaps the only way I can provide any justice to this question is to merely say, “I’ve learned a lot.”
This is true. I have learned so much about the city, about myself, about my family, about humans in general, and about God. Particularly over the spring semester, I learned a lot about God.
The Fall semester was full of learning experiences that I have shared before. I learned about expectations, and I grew as a person. But I would definitely have to say that the spring semester had been much more of a learning curve. Many problems I thought I had left in Colorado (see paragraph five above) came back to haunt me. They came at me hard and almost took me out.
Towards the end of Christmas break, leading into the spring semester, I came to see the casualness of my relationship to Jesus. By this I mean I had made my savior out to be a very human confidant. I could tell Him anything whether it be a rant, a praise, or a complaint. While I believe it is a true blessing to be able to approach my God on such personal terms, I had lost sight of the true nature of my Savior. I began to doubt if He really is in control or powerful enough to redeem the brokenness I see in the world.
Between January and late-March, my journal shows the progression of overwhelming, all-encompassing doubt. Every day I would tell God, “I know that Jesus died for me and the rest of the world, I don’t doubt that. But I am really doubting your goodness and how much control you have.” It began to keep me up at night. I got out of bed every morning exhausted.
A few days after my New Testament class discussed the parable of the Prodigal Son, I had office hours with my professor. This meeting was after a series of meetings where I had arrogantly proclaimed that I felt I knew everything about the New Testament because I had grown up in church and worked in one (pride goeth before a fall). I described to him how I have heard the parable of the Prodigal Son so many times that the story seems to have been simplified to a child’s cartoon depicted on Mr. Henry’s Wild and Wacky World.
The story shows how God is able (and willing) to welcome home those who completely turn away. But I began to question if God could truly welcome home the prodigal in real life. What about the son who really truly has used up all his parents’ money? What about the son who has fallen captive to sex and drugs? What about the son who has completely abandoned all he has been taught in exchange for a modified theology that borderlines heresy?
God bless my New Testament Professor. He reassured me that when Jesus told the story of the Prodigal Son, he knew full well the kind of messiness people would face in this world. Whether God chooses to redeem the messiness or not, it does not negate the fact that He is big enough to do it. My professor helped me see that much of my doubt and anxiety was coming from a place where I did not see God as a god but as a friend. While He is both, I had lost the wonder of how powerful God truly is.
Through the season of doubt, I felt like a terrible Christian. I was so afraid I could lose my faith if I wasn’t careful. My New Testament professor also reassured me that asking questions is okay, as long as I am not asking questions in isolation. He encouraged me to talk to him, to my mom, and to my roommates. Without these people in my life, I don’t know if I would be on the upswing of my doubt.
My last Sunday in New York, I attended my new church (which I love and am very sad to leave for the summer). God is so good! As if to signal that the season of doubt had come to a close, the message was all about Thomas and his doubt after Jesus had risen in John 20. Once Jesus revealed himself to Thomas, He didn’t ostracize His disciple. Instead, Jesus welcomed Thomas and his doubt.
Doubt is not sinful. It is possible to engage our doubts without embracing unbelief. We need to submit our doubts to Jesus and question the doubt as much as we question Him. Doubt can be constructive, it forces us to ask questions and wrestle with why we believe what we believe. What a way to end my first year in New York!
This spring, I spent a lot of sleepless nights wrestling. But now, as I am coming out the other side, I am so thankful. The struggle didn’t lessen the pain that brought my doubt to the surface, but I know without a doubt that my God truly is big enough to handle the pain and the mess.
So what did I learn in New York City? I learned that if Jesus is big enough to conquer the grave, He is big enough to help me engage my doubt without me having to fear embracing unbelief.