The Gratitude of a Fourth Year

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Sarah Poaps | 4th Year Student

It is now reading break, and it is beginning to dawn on me that when I get back to Redeemer, this will be it. I will return to school and hit the ground running and non-stop until I have written my final exam.

I have grossly oversimplified the whole remainder of my semester. Of course there is Easter, there are lulls in each week … sort of? There is church in the box in between. A couple Crown papers are yet to come out… There are lots of things to look forward to!

Over my years at this institution, I have heard and partaken in a reasonable amount of critiques towards Redeemer University College, both fair and unfair. Honestly, though, I would say mostly unfair. I will not get into these complaints, for there is a far better place for them to be corrected, better clarified or regretted. The purpose of this article is to explain my experience and my gratitude towards the professors that have taught me. Do we really understand how difficult it is to teach – and to teach well – the academics we are studying with the worldview that we have?

This institution has provided space for learning general subjects: Science, Psychology, Social Work, Business, English, arts, etc. I am a psychology student and a wannabe English student. While at a public institution, I would be limited to only speak on psychology, but since I am educated in Liberal Arts, I do have the privilege to be moderately versed in each respective discipline. I have grown to truly appreciate and take advantage of this claim, and I would encourage you to do so as well.

I have come to truly appreciate the disposition the professors have with their subject material. Professors have to teach the same subjects a secular institution would, but here there exists the challenge to teach honestly and openly from a Christian worldview. The courses that I have appreciated most are those where the professor does not tack on Christianity in a small box at the end, but rather discovered their origins exist in a Creator.

This I have learned to be a skill that does not come easily. I have written my fair share of essays that explore say the ins and outs of dementia, and my concluding paragraph is often a verse and a sappy recognition of where I stand as a Christian. I have been challenged that this will simply not cut it, especially when I leave this school and have to write papers for a secular institution. Sure I could use the same paper framework, just take out my Christian perspective.

Through psychology I am learning what it really means when the Bible says that God is in and through everything. It is quite literal, and I cannot escape Him. Then, how should my writing or explanation of my education change? I think it will not be used as a defense or a cop out, and it would not be easily removed from the papers I am writing. I think it will come out with boldness when I do not expect it to. It should be read in between the lines. Ideally, the secular reader would be struck with curiosity, but the Christian reader would look at it and trust the writer behind it could only have these if there is belief in a Creator, knowing the writer does not believe himself to be God.

Firstly, I would like to point out the vast differences in the denominational backgrounds that are entering this education system. It has been my experience that the Christian is the most critical of his fellow Christian. While this is necessary for some level of accountability out of love and community building with one another, it is incredibly harmful on another level. It is harmful to the one who critiques, and to the one who is critiqued. In a religion class it was wisely pointed out that, in the space that Redeemer is, we are all reading the same book. Instead of telling the other that he is reading his Bible wrong, perhaps we need to take a step back and ask God what he truly meant when he said “he came to bring life so that we might live it full” (John something…). What I mean to say is that religion majors are not exempt from this difficulty of our clashing worldviews; at the same time we all proclaim Christianity.

I would like to share with you a bit of what I have learned … academically. I would like to share with you what goes on in these classes. I am often whisked into a difficult conversation between theologies, that I come in with, and psychology, that makes more sense out of life. It’s a black and white conversation in theology, where in psychology there are more grey areas than black and white. First and foremost, though, I would like to say that through psychology at Redeemer, the connection between the purpose of the soul and service of God has beautifully been made. We were created for God, and creation was for us. We might now enjoy life and have joy in abundance on this earth. Seek out the things of man and you will see that it is all vanity, to paraphrase Solomon. I have found that the more I try to make sense of things, through theology or whatever logic I have, I am more often humbled to find that I cannot. I don’t like this lack of control, and I think this is where I would like to play God.

Now I should mention theology for me; perhaps I do not have the right theology or I have not allowed my theology to breathe as it should. I have not let it come out with me into the world, where I have allowed psychology to do this. I can reason the brokenness of the world because we are humans who seek to find a creator, who will indeed satisfy and be our daily bread. Christians and non-Christians alike get this wrong in so many ways. I see that this is where psychology explains the inability to be fully human. We cannot be fully human unless we are able to meet and recognize our Creator.

In one class this year we were assigned to read a chapter from Middleton and Walsh’s book Truth is Stranger than it Used to Be: Biblical Faith in a Postmodern Age. It is a beautifully written chapter that has prompted me to place this book on my summer reading list. The chapter is trying to clarify what it means for the Christian to live in a postmodern age. “This means that our translation of creational glossolalia can be wrong, and we should be able to expect reality itself to correct us, if we are only willing to listen.”

I like to believe that as Christians we are asked to live in the reality of God. The reality that promises us all things will be made new. My theology that I wrestle with will be made sense of; it will be clarified.

I would rather sit quietly and listen to what you think than tell you what I think and firmly believe. I want to know why you think and believe what you do. I want to know how you came to those conclusions and what events in your life have brought you to these conclusions.

Here at Redeemer I have seen and reflected on my once yearned for independence. It exists in the hurt of being human, and trying to be human with other humans. Instead of being quick to criticize this school, or even each other, I challenge you to stand firm with your brothers and sisters.  Listen instead of trying to correct all the time. I am learning this, for me at least, to be the most beneficial thing I can do. I do not know the best way to follow God and to witness God once I step outside of this institution. But I can say that this institution has challenged me to wrestle with this, and to find my own way. I am not a consumer, but one who is expected to create.