Tuesday, April 24, 2012

And so, I am done first year.

It has been almost three months since I last wrote on here, and in some weird way it seems like time has gone by so fast that it feels like its been much longer. Speaking of time, I can hardly believe how fast my first year of university went by - it feels like just yesterday I received a call from Laurier offering me the full tuition scholarship that paid for my first year. I subsequently moved to a new, much smaller city to live with my dad for the first time since my parents divorce, and began my university career. I am not sure what I was expecting university to be like - exciting, I suppose, and full of valuable academic achievements, but what I actually experienced was not exactly what I had imagined.

Laurier Brantford is a small university that is, without a doubt, still trying to find its identity and from what I have heard has been growing in spurts - but growing nonetheless. However, it would appear that not many people, and students especially, take Laurier Brantford seriously, which is a topic I don't feel like addressing at the moment, but I might later (but for the record, I am slowly starting to love Laurier Brantford). On top of it being a semi-new campus, the program I enrolled in (Child and Youth Studies) was a newly offered program this year which might explain why I still don't fully understand what my program is about exactly. I have thus far learned that from the beginning of time youth have been rebelling against social norms, and that the concept of childhood is a social construction. Maybe this is because its only first year, but I really hope I will learn more practical information that will help me when/if I actually work with children and youth. But hey, maybe this information will help me later, and I just can't see that yet!

Either way, I have slowly come to the conclusion that even if I don't learn a single useful thing in my  4 years here - if I just get the degree, I will be labelled a successful and intelligent person ready to enter the real world. I am not saying I'm not learning anything, because I am, its just its hard to see how what I am learning will be of use to me when I am in the field, because its all theoretical. But, there are three more years to go, and who knows, second year may blow first year out of the water (and actually, I found the history of childhood fascinating!). I will also be doing a placement somewhere next year, so hopefully this will help me put all the theoretical stuff in perspective, and I might just develop some handy skills.

But in reality, all of this academic stuff is beside the point, because I have the not-so-slight suspicion that I am not at this university to simply study, procrastinate, and then be stressed about it. And nor am I simply here to get good grades or feel important, or to get a well-paying job one day, or for whatever other reason people choose to go to university. And I do believe that education is important, and that going to university opens up doors and gives students the chance to pursue their dreams, and that we should definitely not waste our education. But if that is all its about, then it still seems empty to me.

Because, as with any season in life, it has got to be about Him, and be for His glory. I was told to go to university so I could get a well-paying, fulfilling job, but God has been teaching me how to live a fulfilling life, even in the midst of exams and never-ending papers. At the end of these four years, do I really want to look back and just see someone consumed by achievement and self-importance? Or do I want to look back and see someone who viewed university as an opportunity for ministry, an opportunity to grow deeper with God and in community with fellow students, as an opportunity to see God in the every day - to find inexplicable joy in even the most mundane tasks? I really do believe that God has me here, in Brantford, at the Laurier campus, for a purpose, and I can bet its not to get an A (although getting A's doesn't hurt!)! I am learning, but the majority of what I am learning isn't found in textbooks or lectures (but some of it has been found in a couple of really good books that I might suggest later).

It's hard to put into words what I have been learning this year - because I am still learning in it, because sometimes (most times) God has to really hammer the nail in for me to get it, and I know I only see the small picture. But, one major lesson that I still struggle with is: trust. I don't know what the future holds, and I don't know what I want to pursue for a career, and I really don't even know if I am in the right program, and sometimes its hard for me to see how where I am is part of God's plan for me, because it is so... ordinary, and sometimes simply difficult and...boring. the list of things I don't know or understand can sometimes be overwhelming.

But a lot of this comes down to a poor attitude, an idolization of the 'mountain top,' and a lack of trust in God. God is good, and He is faithful - and when I can only put one foot in front of the other and don't know where the path is headed - that is when my faith and trust in God is really put to the test, and strengthened. thank goodness His grace and mercy are overflowing - because I need them every day, in every moment to help me to have a good attitude in this place.

It's hard for me because I am someone who thrives on the "vision," I am an idealist and a dreamer, and I need to be able to envision an amazing future event/goal to keep myself motivated. In high school, the 'vision' was of going to a prestigious university, studying in a prestigious program, and becoming a missionary or working for the UN, or something really cool and exciting. throughout high school I did a number of really cool and exciting things: lived in Japan for a year, built a house in a rural village in the Dominican Republic, studied human rights and the holocaust in a prestigious independent program, went to Washington, D.C. to be a world-changer, went on a mission trip to Camden, New Jersey  (the most dangerous city in the US), founded a club to raise awareness about human trafficking, and worked in a non-profit organization for at-risk and homeless youth.

And now I am here. In this place where I don't have a 'vision' for anything, and cool and exciting is not even close to what I experience, and everything, everything, seems up in the air and out of my control, and yet so... ordinary. I have no direction and I almost feel lost. Almost.

Because in reality, I have a direction. I have a vision... and it's the only one worth having, but, to see it, and to keep seeing it, I have to let go of my hold on everything else, everything cool and exciting and what this world deems as success or fulfillment. But I fight letting go, especially now, when it seems like I don't really have that much that I am holding on to anyways. How can I let go of the little I have? It's painful, the process of being emptied. It really makes you ask the hard, deep questions that sometimes don't have clear, tangible answers.

What have I really been living for?
Why am I even in university?
Why am I in Brantford? 

What is God's purpose for my life?
What really, does it mean to live fully?

 But it also clears away all the things that keep me from beholding Jesus, and makes me realize how full my life truly is.  Jesus is here. His abundance is overflowing - His grace is covering me and it is spilling over, and over, into the dry places of my heart, and into the dry places of this city. Jesus has me here for a purpose, and although I may not see clearly what that is yet, I know it begins with trusting Him.