As I am almost done with three full years at a non-denominational Christian university, I am able to look back on my time here and reflect on what has occurred in my faith during my time here. As could be expected, my pre-college expectations were demolished. Being raised in a conservative non-denominational (which basically meant Baptist without having any sort of official affiliation) church for most of my life and committing to go into full-time ministry my junior year in high school, I thought that college was going to be a cake-walk spiritually. I was just going to go to college to learn how to be a good youth minister and organize things and plan events and manage money. I already had my faith figured out and knew what I believed. I knew that my faith would be secure at a Christian university and that I would not be in danger of losing my faith like so many of my friends who went to public, secular universities (God help their souls).
And then I got here. My favorite professors were Presbyterian (don’t they sprinkle babies or something heretical like that?). My roommate was a Calvinist (which is a dirty word, right?). One of my suitemates attended an Assembly of God church (Those are the crazy people, right?). People would dance around during worship in chapel (God wouldn’t want someone to distract other people from worshipping, of course). All of these things went against what I had grown up knowing and believing. And yet, at the same time, I discovered that all of these people loved Jesus.
And so, I was at a crisis of faith. Here I was, at a Christian college, getting a degree in youth ministry, and I felt as though my faith was being crushed. To me, attending a Christian university has been a test of faith for me. Some people think that going to a Christian school is the wussy way out, that it’s easy to be a Christian at a Christian university. For me, this wasn’t the case. My faith was put on trial here. Being exposed to so many different faith backgrounds, so many different cultures, and so many different understandings of what it means to be a Christian has forced me to rethink what it means for me to be a Christian. Just when I thought I had it all figured out, I learned that I wasn’t even close.
And so here I am, and I now know less about what I believe than when I enrolled here three years ago. Although I know less, there are other things that have increased. The grace of God is bigger in my life now; I am more aware today than ever about how much grace is needed to keep this world turning. My humility has grown out of my acknowledgement that I don’t have it all figured out. I understand better what it means to say that I can do nothing to save myself, but that it is all by God’s grace. I would rather have God’s grace and love real in my life than have my certainty in my theology, and that’s what has happened.
I still don’t have it all figured out. I think that my time here has begun a life-long quest that will never end. My theology will constantly be changing. I will rethink what it means to be a Christian. But through it all, God will remain constant. I thank God for my time here at JBU, that it is not a bubble theologically, and that it does truly challenge the faith of a believer.