ESSAY 1 - What do you hope to learn about yourself, God, the world and others while at Mars Hill Graduate School?
I've delayed putting my proverbial pen to paper until this eleventh hour having hoped that in the months since deciding to pursue Mars Hill Graduate School, a perfectly formed, theologically sound, rationally weighted and psychologically balanced thesis for why I want to attend graduate school would have already taken up residence in my heart and mind. Instead, in the past few months more questions have moved into the space I had reserved for answers. So, I've been bumping my knees up against the whys and stubbing my toes on the how-tos and rearranging the what-fors. But in the midst of all the crammed questions, one answer remains. A simple statement piece that I intend to keep among the cluttered furniture of my heart and mind is: I want more.
Text. I want more than the Baptist belief system I have held to for 30 years that, while rooting me in a deep faith, has also narrowed my mind to who God is and limited my interpretation of what he has said. I want more than a private Christian school education that left me with principles, rules and regulations about everything from what to wear and what to say but never educated or addressed my need and design for relationship with God and others. I want my biblical longings and questions held and heard instead of being rebuffed as still being an infantile diet of milk when I should be eating meat by now. I want to know the text as a whole, in its entirety, rather than only acknowledging its parts that have been picked and chosen to be used out of context for someone else's debate win. I want a passion to read the words of God and see them in a prism of colors, not just the blacks and whites or even the reds. I want to see the Bible as it was meant to be seen, read it as it was meant to be read. And I would rather widen my understanding of truth, as difficult as that will be, than to sit comfortably in the narrow-mindedness of my own ignorance.
Soul. I want more for my heart. I want it to find a gentle, healing path where the destination leads me to an advanced, lengthy, and detailed tutorial of how to take better care of it. Because on the outside, my heart is strong, firm, calloused and impact-resistant. But the blood-thirsty, oxygen-starved, mushy inside has been cut off from desire and longing, pain and joy, suffering and every other emotion along the way and is now on the verge of being gangrenous. I've denied myself cathartic tears of pain and silenced squeals of joy to maintain a posture of composure in order to send the ever-safe and appropriate message that everything is okay. I've picked my brokenness up by my bootstraps and stuffed dangerous desires deep in my pockets for so long I don't even know what it means to feel. It took an outward manifestation of a panic attack at age 29 to finally acknowledge my heart's inner turmoil. And after a year and a half of counseling, I'm just beginning to know what it means to feel again - or maybe even for the first time.
Last year, I was struck by Isaiah 61:1, the prophecy of Jesus' job description: to bind up the broken hearted and set the captive free. The verse made me question naively, "If that is the primary reason for his coming, then he must not have come for me. Because, where am I broken hearted? Where am I captive?" But a lifetime of believing that he did come for me and everyone else led me to examine how by not acknowledging my own woundedness, I was missing the greatest opportunity for intimacy with Christ, through his redemption. Since, I've invited Christ to come in and bring light to the areas I've been unaware were so beat up or in bondage. And experiencing his redemption has made me want to shout to my Christian public - it's not just about salvation and heaven, but it's about redemption here on earth, too! I want to know more of this redeeming work, which requires that I know more about brokenness and captivity - my own, and that of others as well. And seeing the mountaintop of redemption has made me willing to go into the valley of woundedness and captivity again.
Culture. Out of my 31 years of life, all 31 of them have been spent in the church. The church, its heritage, history, influences, and paradigms are my culture. More than being Caucasian female, I have identified myself with being a churchgoer. From serving in the same church for the past 12 years, to private Christian schools before that, to both parents being on staff at the church I was born and raised in, I have a very limited view of the world and a dominant view of the modern church. I want more than the narrow perspective I've been offered. I want to stretch my capacity to think in ways I've never imagined, or even been allowed to imagine. I want to read things I don't agree with, and know why I don't. I want to engage with material that stretches my moral muscles and brings me face to face with my own limiting self-righteousness. I want to know the audience that God looks upon and realize it's so much more than my white, middle-class, religious face that he sees. I want to see what he sees in the face of every culture and find his image there. And the more I know of other cultures, how wonderful for me, the more I will know of my own creator, and therefore, my own image.
I want more. And for the first time I'm willing to step out in risk to grab it. I'm letting the tiny seed of desire germinate, praying for water and sunshine, hoping that Mars Hill will bring the elements I need for the growth and thriving life of that little seed.