In the coming months, many of us will open the doors of Redeemer, walk through the halls and sit in the auditorium for the last time as a student. When we do this, it will be as alumni. Our time here will have come to an end – like a beautifully messy, yet well-intentioned, essay.
Our introduction, being our first year here, outlined what we hoped to accomplish during our journey at Redeemer. Our introduction addressed taking those initial steps in the process of working out big questions like “who am I?”, “what do I believe?”, “where am I going?” and “what should I do with my life?”. During our middle years – the time where we do much of the academic research – we wrestled with these questions and formed some sort of trajectory as we proceeded to our inevitable conclusion. Finally, we arrive in our last year – still alive, still wrestling with the same questions, not necessarily having come to an answer (if you have, let me know) – having certainly a matured understanding of the questions on our mind.
Then it’s all over. We exit this chapter in our lives for the next season/adventure/step in life with our final paper in hand, a document that presents the final thesis of our time here. It represents all that we picked up and took with us, but also all that we left behind and dropped along the way – for better or for worse.
Everything in this world leaves a mark, whether big or small, on everything it interacts with. From the wind that sweeps across the sands of a desert to the hands of a potter, everything is continually shaping and being shaped by all that it interacts with on some level. It’s like the “Butterfly Effect” where a tiny drop in water leads to bigger and bigger ripples across the surface. The way I like to best visualize it is that everything tans you.
Everything is constantly radiating and consuming light, tanning and being tanned; everything is left different than how it was before. Some light can be a positive change, enriching its subject; some can be a negative change, burning and disfiguring the subject’s true identity. Soren Kierkegaard put it in a similar way in The Sickness Unto Death: “sin is: in despair not wanting to be oneself before God . . . Faith is: that the self in being itself and wanting to be itself is grounded transparently in God.”
For those who fellowship with the Light, it would seem appropriate to see ourselves as vessels, our complexion being a reflection of a life spent soaking in the radiance of the Son who fills us with the means to go out into this world. With this, we shine the same light wherever we go, leaving marks along the way – ichthys, if you will – that identify our time spent there with a greater purpose for our lives, drawing everything we interact with back into fellowship with this Light. As free vessels, we also have the choice of filling ourselves with all sorts of darkness, all also radiating light, but a light that disfigures and destroys rather than that which enriches. Just as we pick up and fill ourselves with things that enrich, so can we pick up and fill ourselves with things that will destroy; but just as we fill, so can we also empty and remove those things that don’t bear Light.
Your life does not end when you leave Redeemer; it goes on to another chapter in the overall story that is your life. But an important chapter in your life does end, and what will the synopsis say? Were you burned more times than you were enriched? Did you burn more times than you enriched?
The essay isn’t finished yet. There’s still time to edit. There’s still time to write.
What will your final thesis say?