Well, everyone. We’ve nearly made it. My college years are coming to a close. As I approach graduation, I’m reflecting more and more on how this time has changed me. Three years of pure joy and passionate study, of working odd jobs and stumbling across life-callings, living in the heart of a broken and beautiful city… three years of security that I desperately needed to be loved and learn to love again, to restore my trust in others, to rediscover the ecstasy of laughing with abandon and enjoying some measure of confidence that I really was going to make it. That I would be okay. God has shown himself to be such a good and generous Father to me, and these three years are testimony to the miracle of redemption. I am not just okay, now… I’m pleased to report that I’ve grown into this whole new woman, I am so happy, and I’m thrilled at the thought of what may come next.
One of the clearest memories I have from my time in Kenya is the very moment it began. I can see it unfold like a movie in my mind – descending the stairs from my plane, my legs weak after so many hours seated. The sun setting, the sky pink and orange, the breeze carrying entirely foreign scents to greet me. I remember being startled by how large and strange baobab trees are in real life and in the back of my mind, a quiet sense of alarm resounding, echoing with fear that rose untempered until my first foot touched down on Kenyan ground. Followed by my second… And then I was walking, moving toward that new season of life, thinking to myself: “Everything changes now.”
I was right. Not in the way I thought I would be right, but in the way that matters. I suffered, then endured, and then thrived amid a time of great loss. Everything about me was altered, I shifted and became. I lost myself, my identity, my bearings. The moment my toes touched the tarmac, it seemed as though whoever I had been fled my body. Who would I become? I felt that I had been returned to my beginnings, given an opportunity to build some new version of myself. I faced a loss of surety – of knowing right from wrong, understanding how to communicate. I truly bumbled through those months, internally wincing after each interaction, worrying at who I would offend next, wondering where my next misadventure in culture shock would lead. But then those losses gave way to happier losses, like a loss of inhibition. I grew into a person that doubted herself less and trusted herself more. I felt, with increasing confidence, there was nothing left to lose and only ever more to gain. The loss of who I had been paved the way for who I had yet to discover.
I felt differently when I first arrived in Chicago. I remember the skyline looming before me and then it seeming to swallow me whole. The city cloaked my life in concrete. I imagined myself encased within, enveloped by cement; I longed to be stable, steady. After a year of such overwhelming change in Kenya, I had no desire to undergo another growth spurt so soon. Unlike my arrival in Kenya, at Moody it seemed that I was doing all I could to cling to what I knew and resist change. I’ve since found that growth isn’t always an upheaval. Albeit its inevitably disruptive and disorienting nature, sometimes growth is subtle. You look back one day and see, all at once, how the Lord has led you here, the strides that have brought you to this new reality.
In my high school years, I built for myself an armour, searching for sanctuary within myself. My trappings of mail and metal – my coveted refuge – soon became a prison. In Kenya, my armour was futile as my skin shed itself, seemingly of its own volition. I was hopelessly humbled and my self-made sanctuary proved wholly ineffectual. In the quiet months of waiting, with nowhere left to turn, I found myself surrendering to the Lord at last. When he drew me up and freed me, my skin felt as though it had gone too long without the sun. Pale and pink, fragile and freshly-scrubbed. It was that weary and raw self, born anew, that walked onto Moody’s campus. It is she that the Lord has steadily grown over these three years. His gentleness has guided me and his faithfulness has kept me.
I had no idea what these years would become. I never could have dreamed they would have looked like this. More accurately, I would never have even known how to hope they could be as they have been: opulent, abundant, fruitful. Somewhere in the midst of it all, I realized that God had stripped me of my many assumptions and swept away my expectations. In their place had arisen a new heart, beating, racing after new passions. I was excited by different things, caught in a tumble of thoughts heretofore unknown to me, and utterly in love with the curiosity God had placed within me. I sought answers I had not previously desired while laying to rest other questions that can only find satisfaction in the peace that surpasses understanding. I was enamoured with this new life of learning – no longer desperately holding to who I was, but slowly stepping into the woman God is shaping me to be.
As I grew under his care, Moody became a threshold for new dreams and the resurrection of dreams long forgotten. Here I cherished the delicate, beautiful gift of a community that I grew to delight in. Here I sailed off into uncharted territory – at times gliding across the waves, at others only just managing to stay afloat, and occasionally, succumbing to the storm. Here I tested my capacity and was challenged in every aspect – here I embraced my limitations and learned how to leave it at the cross. Here the Lord has met me, taught me, disciplined me, walked with me, and led me. I am so grateful for his companionship… and for all the dear friends, mentors, peers, and professors that have grown into family during my time here.
As I go on from this place, I am so eager to continue growing and changing and becoming. I look forward to seeing who else he brings into my life, what challenges I will be presented with… Everything changes now. And I can’t wait!