Theology major at George Fox

Discovering a Deeper Faith through the Margaret Fell Scholars Program

Academics
Originally, when I committed to George Fox University, I came because I was a student-athlete and wanted to continue playing the sport I love. I knew I wanted to be a theology major to pursue a career in ministry, but my main focus was athletics.
 
But, soon after starting my season, I realized God had a different and much more difficult plan – a plan that included my introduction to a new community of people through the Margaret Fell Scholars Program (more on that later).

The Margaret Fell Scholars Program offers a $1,000 annual scholarship on top of financial aid to theology majors who hope to pursue seminary after graduation. Through the program, students will have an accelerated path toward a BA from George Fox University and an MA from Portland Seminary, allowing them to enter their vocation 1-2 years earlier and save tens of thousands of dollars in the process.

 

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An unknown health issue plagued me. My mental and physical health rapidly declined, to the point where I could no longer walk across campus by myself. I showed up to practices and classes, trying to tie back together the ends of a constantly fraying rope that was my identity.
 
I kept thinking, “You’re an athlete, work through it … You’re a student, you have to maintain your standards and exceed them.”
 
I held onto the only identifiers that made me, well, me.My coaches were supportive, but concerned, and I never told my professors or advisors how scared I was.

The big change came when I realized that God didn’t call me to George Fox to play a sport, or to be an accomplished student. I wasn’t taking these classes about the intricacies of the Bible or the movements of God throughout history just to pass. He’d brought me here to learn to love him, and others, better.

 

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One morning I woke up in my dorm, too dizzy and in too much pain to move, and I realized I wasn’t doing that. I wasn’t fulfilling my purpose at Fox or in my life. I was suffering and continuing to pretend everything was fine. I was falling apart and not listening to what God was trying to say.
 
Prayer up until this moment was a way for me to tell God what I wanted, not to listen to his instruction. But for the first time I did listen, and he told me I needed to give up something I loved – my sport – to focus on his purpose for me. This was my Matthew 16:25 moment. I was (or at least felt I was) losing my life, and little did I know how much I would find my life in Jesus.
 
Within a week I’d decided to quit my sport. I took the necessary steps to rest and recover, to heal my body and my spirit. I was met with community, with authenticity, with support, and with understanding from my peers, my close friends, my professors, and the student life faculty at George Fox.
 
In that moment they didn’t know anymore than I did that this turning point meant me truly living into my calling, learning how deep God’s love is, and finally recognizing the blessings he intended for me on this campus.
 
Soon after this major internal change, opportunities sprouted up in front of me: Where I had “lost” a community and a hobby, I gained a new community, perspective and guidance. The Margaret Fell Scholars program introduced me to a group of people who had a passion for mentoring and empowering students to trust, believe, and live into their calling from God.
 
Where I had previously sought a “career,” I realized that I had never made that decision – God had been continually pulling me toward him, refining skills and building confidence to step into a life of vocational ministry.
 

The Scholars program gave me something I’d never had before: true confidence not just in my academic ability, but my individual aptitude to truly shape myself and the world around me to be more like his kingdom.

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Through my classes, I was encountered by the difficulties of academic, historical truth about Christianity and the Bible. But through the support of these mentors and my other professors, I leaned into the Holy Spirit and quickly realized that the power of God is not constrained to a single theory, academic fact, or historical recounting. God’s power shaped history and time forever, but it continues to actively change our everyday lives.
 
While my classes challenged me with facts and theories, God challenged me to trust him. When I started to doubt the foundations of my faith, God showed me immutable truths that I had misunderstood. Where my professors gave me excitement for who Jesus is, Jesus rejoiced with me in that excitement. Christ-centered education merges the expertise of humanity with the experience of the Creator. I’m continually humbled and reminded that no matter how much we know in our mortal lives, it’s empty without the truth of Jesus establishing those facts.
 

I can’t imagine learning about Jesus in a better environment. I’m academically invested in a way I’ve never been before, but I’m also learning that academics on their own are useless. The world today prioritizes status and intelligence, degrees and accomplishments, over the simple truths because oftentimes the simple truths don’t seem as glamorous.
 

One of the most important changes has been in my prayer life. Where before I told God what I wanted, now I lean in to pray what God wants over me. Instead of choosing my own words, I wait for his.
 
My education and support through the Scholars program hasn’t just empowered me academically; it’s fundamentally changed my spiritual life for the better. Our world needs a generation – generations! – of scholars and specialists who are founded in the truth and compassion of Christ.
 
True purpose isn’t vocation; it’s letting God breathe into that vocation for the betterment of our businesses, towns, communities, states and nation. It’s living into Christian teaching as informed as you do your career.

I’m thankful to say that George Fox and the Scholars program have taught me, and continue to teach me, that truth of reality and of identity.

 

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Abby O'Grattan

Author

Abby is from Ladera Ranch, California and is a junior Biblical Studies major and member of the George Fox Honors Program. She has a passion for making cold brew, finding new walking trails, and getting coffee with friends. She spends her time at the gym and with friends talking about novels and theology. 

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