Below is a copy of my final paper that I turned in last night for my Discovery class here at Gordon.
If you've read my post on Facebook or Instagram then you've read my thank you letter to my classmates, this is what you could call the first half of that, I suppose.
I choose to format my final paper as a letter to God, thanking him for all that he used Discovery for in my life as well as just reflecting on some of my favorite moments with the most beautiful hearts I've ever known.
Top row from left to right: Dan, Tom, Nate, Charlotte, Abby, Me, and George
Bottom row from left to right: Cara, Seamus, Hope, Mark, Pam, and Shea
What a semester it has been!
In some ways, Discovery was one of the most difficult and challenging classes I could have ever had to take, but in others, it was a salve for my bruised and broken heart. But at the end of it all, I could not be more grateful for everything I learned from Mark, Abby, Nate, and my peers. I could not be more humbled by all that they taught me.
I am sure you remember the anxious breakdowns I had in the days leading up to the first class! I probably came to you every hour for a solid 15 minutes for a while. I kept thinking to myself that I would never find the right classroom and that I was doomed to always feel so nauseous when I simply said the word “Discovery” out loud. But you never left me, not once, in all that upheaval that I felt so deeply.
I did end up finding the right classroom, and I ended up making a somewhat decent good first impression on Cara and that is what started it all. From there, I slowly began to release more and more of my story and myself into the hands of my peers.
Early in the course, it seemed to me that vulnerability for once was expected. Having grown up back home, I felt more at ease with that expectation because it had been a way of life for me. But at the same time, I was so surprised because the Americans I had met before Discovery looked at vulnerability as a bad thing, and strongly discouraged it.
Now, looking back, I am so glad I just let myself go instead of questioning everything every single time I was asked to speak. I grew closer to my peers that way, and I now consider them my family. I know that they would do anything for me, and I would do the same for them.
Discovery was not just physical activities and challenges like I had preconceived it to be. It was so much more than that.
The readings and the journals that we got to work on are some of the most introspective moments I have had in my faith, aside from my experiences in Senegal and after Daniel’s death. One of the readings that stood out to me concluded with this: “God’s end is to enable me to see that He can walk on the chaos of my life just now. If we have a further end in view, we do not pay sufficient attention to the immediate present: if we realize that obedience is the end, then each moment as it comes is precious. (After Obedience – What? pg. 20).”
These two sentences are so short that they hardly fill an eighth of the page in the journal, yet they contain so much depth and wisdom. I had never really considered my life from that perspective before until I read the words and it seemed to fit and make so much sense.
My life, and the lives of my family members, have consisted of constantly saying “yes” to you, even when everything in us is desperately yelling at us to say no and find a way out of it.
Did my dad want to serve in a hot climate? No! But he obeyed and said yes. Did I want to lose Daniel? No, of course, I did not! But I have learned that you have better for me, so I have learned to say yes. Did my family want to say goodbye to me and leave me to study in America? No! Absolutely not! And I certainly did not want to let them go, but they listened and went. I listened, and I let them go.
Obedience as the end makes all those moments so much more worth it because I do not have to regard them as striving towards something else. Being human, I must admit that I have struggled with that end at times, but you are a faithful God, and you have been holding my hand every step of the way.
Another thing that stands out to me so distinctly was not from a reading but from Mark’s talk on Sunday after our solo time during our weekend. The weekend had been enjoyable in some ways, but it was Sunday, and I woke up struggling with homesickness like I always do on Sundays. Sundays are a reminder to me of just how much I miss fitting into Daddy’s arms, the nook of Momma’s shoulder, and Faithie’s hand.
Being on the camping trip, I also knew it meant sacrificing my weekly video call for family prayer, and that knowledge was causing me some pain. During my solo time, in between readings and journaling my thoughts on them, I did a lot of wrestling with that homesickness. I so desperately wanted it to go away so that I could enjoy the rest of the weekend, but it would not budge, and it even made me cry a little.
So, needless to say, I was very ready to hear what Mark had to share. What I was not expecting was for his words to pick up my heart and shatter it and then bind it back together. He used the analogy of being a tree and talked about how a tree must have deep roots, thick bark, sturdy branches, and healthy fruit to thrive.
As I was drawing my tree, a lot of what I thought of as bark I came to realize no longer existed because you have brought me to America. I was broken by the knowledge that so much of what I had protecting me is now gone, but I was bound with hope for your provision in the future. It was an interesting moment, to on one hand acknowledge the depth of my suffering but on the other be so vividly aware of your goodness and your promises.
My favorite part of the weekend aside from Mark’s analogy was the life stories!
I think it is so neat how you have been leading each of us and how you placed in this class together. The gift you gave us sitting around that fire is one I will never forget and will always be grateful for. Thank you for creating each and every one of my peers, Jesus. Thank you for orchestrating schedules the way you did so that we might all end up together.
And now, I just ask that you continue to comfort my heart. This goodbye will not be easy.
The way you knit us all together, my mind marvels at it! I cannot comprehend what I could have ever done to merit such a family as the one they have become for me. The way you use your people for your glory, Lord, is a wonder to me.
I started the class with pieces of myself missing, and now, I will be walking away with twice what I came in with. This class has been for me what one calls “kintsugi” in your hands. The circumstances I was in caused me to feel like broken pottery. I felt so broken and unable to ever be used for you. I felt empty and aimless. But through this class and through your people I have been melded back together and my cracks have been filled with the gold of your wisdom, grace, compassion, and mercy.
I am coming away filled to the brim with love, gratitude, purpose, and hope.
Here I am, Lord. Send me.
Stay tuned for the debut of the "On Interviewing Christian Creatives" series!