Dearest First Years: Don't Listen to Everything You Hear At Redeemer

John Shuurman

Hey, first years!

Most of you are starting your second semester, and your university routines are becoming familiar. Some of you may also be reaching the point where you are becoming busier than you had ever meant to make yourself, or are practising habits that will lead you to that point very shortly. I regret that this is happening to some of you, and I am writing to share a warning that I wish I had heard in my first year.

Around this time last year, Redeemer's chaplain, Syd, said what he believes to be the greatest sin on our campus, which is the acceptance of busyness and the practise of rushing through our days.  This is an unfortunate reality, but it makes sense given what students are told.  It seems that for every voice that tells us to slow down enough to enjoy the little things God has given us, there are another four or five or six voices telling us to do this and to do that, do better, do more, more and even more.

Throughout my three years at Redeemer I have been told that as a steward of God's gift of education, I need to get better grades; as a steward of the body God gave me, I need to spend more time exercising; as a disciple of Christ I need to spend more time reading the Bible, more time in prayer; as a good member of this Christian community, I need to run for Student Senate and/or be an RA; as a Christian, I need to be involved with a church in Hamilton for Sunday services and in other capacities; as a voting-aged Christian, I need to spend more time reading the newspaper so I can be an informed voter ... The list goes on!  I even remember one chapel service where Redeemer students were told that, as Christians, we need to be spending more time reading novels for leisure!

I think you see where this is going. If you do everything you're told to ... well, you can't!  Does that mean you're a bad Christian?  It would seem so.  But here's the little secret I want to let you in on: what it actually means is that even at Redeemer, we have yet to figure out what it means to live like Christ – and yes that even includes professors, student leaders and chaplains.

 You cannot just go with the flow at Redeemer.  You may have heard the saying that goes: “being at a Christian school doesn't make you a Christian any more than being in a garage makes you a car.”  Even at Redeemer, you must discern for yourself what God's values are and how we are to live in their light.

 So, what do you need?  What is the foundation out of which you can determine everything else that God wants, calls, expects and commands from us?  It's not novels.  What must you do to ground yourself in priorities that free you to be available for God to shape you and use you?

 I'm not going to answer those questions here (For what it's worth, the big hint I would offer is to start with prayer).  There are many people in your lives who will offer you the right answers.  It is in your best interest to gain discernment, in order to determine for the rest of your life which answers to disregard and which ones to pursue.