As I sit here in my dorm room, I’m blown away by the thought that in less than a week I’ll be leaving Moody and Chicago for three months. It seems like it was just the other day when I moved here; yet at the same time it feels like I’ve been here for so long. As I reflect on the ups, downs, and lessons I’ve learned in my time at Moody so far, I’m amazed and grateful for all God has taught me. While these are reflections of my college experience thus far, I hope that anyone reading this can relate and be encouraged by the lessons I’ve learned.
Embrace the joyous moment. There’s a cliché saying that I often have been told, “Embrace the stage of life you’re in.” It’s cheesy but oh so correct. It’s so easy to be in a stage of life but have our mind and heart set on the next stage. I’ve kept this in mind this year and have sought to enjoy each moment in my time at Moody. I’ve had so many adventures, experiences, and memories than I know will stick with me for years to come.
Embrace the people around you. Having grown up in a close-knit family, attended the same school most of my life and the same church all of my life, I often took for granted the people around me. It’s crazy how it sometimes takes leaving friends and family behind to realize that. Having lost some friends and lost some friendships, I’ve been reminded to not overlook the people I’ve had the privilege to meet here. I’m so grateful for the godly friends that are in my life and am so excited to continue getting to know them in the next few years.
Embrace the opportunity to try something new. This year in Chicago has been one of many new adventures and, I believe, just the start of many more. I’ve experimented more crazy foods than I’ve ever tried and gone on more adventures than I would have thought I could ever do. God’s opened up my eyes to the beauty of His creativity through the lenses of other cultures. Ever since moving to Chicago, I’ve had the urge to see, do, and experience new things in a way I’ve never had before. I’ve loved being able to learn, explore, and find new things to enjoy with those around me.
Embrace life-learning. If there’s one thing in regards to learning that has stuck out to me most here at Moody it would be this: we are all on a life-long journey of learning. I’ve always thought that learning was just what we do in school. I learned to write in first grade, how to do algebra in eighth grade, how to manage a checkbook in twelfth grade, and now I’m learning to study God’s Word in college. I knew learning in this context, but I’ve found that there is so much more to learn outside of a learning environment. I’ve learned more from the people around me about God and ministry than in any class I’ve taken. Not to undermine the knowledge I’ve gained through classes here, but my mind and heart has been enlightened to the power of listening and realizing that learning is a life-long pursuit.
Embrace the moments with family. Being away from home for the most extend period of time I ever have been has been strange but also very growing. I have such a higher view of my family and appreciation for each of them and what they have done in my life. I’m so grateful for the path my parents instructed me to follow from the time I was born and am so grateful for loving grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, and siblings that have helped bring me to where I am today. You never realize how blessed you are until it’s either gone or distant from you. In my time away I’ve realized this and so enjoyed being able to come home at breaks to spend time with family.
Embrace the struggle. Most of these thoughts are pretty straight forward and make sense. But this one might seem a little odd. But this is the greatest lesson I have learned so far in my time at Moody. While as I shared, I’ve had a lot of great experiences and fun memories, I’ve also had a lot of hard times and struggles. As a guy who generally thinks myself too cool to cry, I’ve shed more tears than in much of my life before college. From the loss of friends to the loss of friendships and various struggles in between, I’ve learned so much about conflict and godly responses to struggle.
As the picture above shows, we often think of our life as planned, prepared, and pretty easy. We see our goals and the path we’re on and we don’t see the struggles that will inevitably come. The truth is we all go through struggles, trials, and pain. We can try to run from it all we want, but we can’t escape the reality of it. We’re bound to hurt those we love, make mistakes, and have regrets. I’ve seen this over and over in my life, but God has been so good to remind me of the purpose in our struggles. “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5 ESV emphasis added).
As the renowned pastor, author, and teacher Chuck Swindoll says, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” We can’t always choose what happens but we can choose our response. God has shown me this over and over again. Through various trials, I’ve held to the promises of Scripture that God will bring me through (1 Peter 5:10), will use it to grow me (Romans 5:3-5), and will use it for my good (Romans 8:28).
As I prepare to take finals, pack my bags, and come home for a while before flying to Thailand for the summer, I’m reminded of each of these lessons, and many more, that God has taught me. I titled this blog “Embrace the Journey” because I’ve come to realize that that is what life is: a journey. We don’t always know where we are to go or what we are to do, but as we go God continues to reveal Himself and lead us on the journey.
I know that as I finish my first year at Moody, I still have a lot to learn and a lot to experience. I know I by no means have all of the answers, but I know who does have the answers as I continue into the next stage of my college experience. I pray that whatever stage of life you’re in, you too can be reminded and encouraged to embrace your journey in the ups and in the downs.