From the Campus Pastor
Lessons from a New Old House
We moved this summer from Dundee - a little town four miles from campus - to a 100-year-old home about two blocks from campus. I can see my office building from my porch and could probably make it halfway to it while holding my breath. This is the first house that I have loved as we are moving into it. I have always loved our houses, but I loved them because our life happened there and the living rooms and kitchens took on our personality. This is a house that you love because life has already happened there in the uneven, creaky floorboards and the window seats and poorly placed bathroom. The bathroom is on a landing in the stairwell with the toilet facing the front door directly. The front door has a large square window, and unless the bathroom door is closed every moment, our guests are greeted with the stately commode as the first thing they see. Now that's a welcome!
The house has done a lot of living in its 100 years and is full of the character of the century. Everywhere I look I see its beauty and its endless potential. Although the most significant updating has been done, there is a lot of ongoing work to accomplish - a new front walk, hacking out overgrowth in the yard, taking down an unused chimney, finishing a play loft area for our daughter. It will be a process and nothing will happen overnight, although I would love to "I Dream of Jeanie" it to completion.
We recently hosted our Christian Life Week at George Fox, and I was again reminded of the ongoing process of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Holy Spirit works in our souls like a slow cooker much more often than like a microwave. For all my desire for my own spiritual work to be "done" and my own healing to be zapped into completion, I find instead that my life is gradually being transformed and surrendered with a slowness that could only be from a God who sees 1,000 days in the blink of an eye. There is no McSpirituality.
Our speaker was Dave Ward, an engaging storyteller, preacher, and faculty member at Indiana Wesleyan University. Dave called our community to complete surrender - to a way of being in Jesus that is giving our heart, soul, and mind, as Dave says "our very very" according to the Hebrew. Dave also challenged us to be transparent with each other in the pain of the loneliness and hurt that most of us carry through life. Our musical guest artist was Isa, who led us into the heart of God by "soaking us in the Holy Spirit." I got to pray with several students and hear a bit of their stories, followed by reading some of their reflections on post-it notes about what holds them back from giving their pain over to Jesus in chapel this past Monday. The students, along with me, want to be healed, to be surrendered, to belong to Jesus. But the process of it is a mystery, we want it to be done - now! Tonight! Instead, we make baby steps toward wholeness and holiness together.
When I look at these students I see their endless potential and their remarkable beauty. Most of these students are less than a quarter of a century old, but the character and beauty of my house is unmatched by their brilliant ideas, their unfolding wisdom, and their overwhelming abilities. I also see the deep rifts in their hearts and hear the pain of trying to be good enough, living with sin habits, dealing with perceived failure, and for some, stories of abandonment and abuse. God is pursuing each of them with his gentle and firm ways, wooing their hearts and rebuilding their foundations. In some students God is in the process of repairing structural cracks and in others God is sweeping off the front porch and replacing shattered windows. But with all of them - whether they know it or not - God is at work.
Our desire in Campus Ministries is to help create opportunities for students to see and hear that God is moving in their lives in the slow and quick, calling them into lives marked by wholeness in relationships and hearts, and holiness in their daily lives. All of us want things to happen instantly, and much of my work here is helping people see the signs of God in their lives in what seems slow and daily. However, the heart and mind change that happens in these four years is profound and in the overall picture of their lives incredibly fast.
I find that sharing spiritual friendship with college students changes me almost daily. Their willingness to work at the hard stuff, to be real, and to find their way through a maze of personal and familial challenges always encourages me and often convicts me. I have learned almost everything I know about grace, repentance, and forgiveness from college students - both in the reception and the rejection of it. I think that my new old house has a lot to teach me about process and waiting as do college students. When I walk in the front door and find myself greeted by the shining toilet, I am reminded that realness must be at the center of my life and my home. I don't think we are going to change that.
Sarah Thomas Baldwin