Laura and I were coming back from Tuesday night church at International Baptist Church on Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn, New York. It’d been rather cold and gloomy lately, the asphalt glistening with new rain in the light of the street lamps. I wore my flip-flops, jeans, and my basketball sweatshirt out of the hopes that the feeling of a summer night would show up just for us.
This night at church, I’d been challenged in my reading of the Bible, in my approach to my quiet time with God, in my dependence upon His Word to defend itself. I can dig around for answers and trust that His Word will keep me steady, I can talk to Him about all things, and He sees everything, past, present, and future, in a single moment.
As Laura and I waited for the ever unreliable G train to pull up to the dampened platform, I talked to her about Kat, one of the other girls in our on-campus Bible study, and Bree, my roommate. The two of them, having given their lives to Christ within the last year, had started a Bible study with an engaged couple in their sphere of influence. The two of them had also, within that same period of time, sharpened, challenged, corrected, and encouraged me as sisters in Christ, as if I were in the kitchen of my best friends, Hannah and Beth, who had been and continued to be my ever-consistent examples of “iron sharpening iron” (Proverbs 27:17). As I explained all of this to Laura, describing how I’ve been encouraged by Christ blossoming in both Bree and Kat, it suddenly struck me that I never thought I’d be having conversations like this while attending Pratt Institute.
During my freshman year here, I was struggling with taking in the vulgarity, apathy, and cynicism that was considerably less prevalent in my small town of New Berlin, NY (AKA, the Shire), and therefore hadn’t even thought of being able to start any kind of ministry. It was during that year I learned, or at least was reminded that life given over to Christ is ministry in and of itself. They do not exist apart from each other. Period.
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
Since freshman year, God has transformed the way I see the world. I went from thinking, within those first few months, “I should rally all the Christians on campus together for Bible study and we’ll survive that way,” to now, in my junior year, thinking “I have been called to both make and labor for a Christian community of disciples and disciple-makers, not to wait around until they come out of the woodwork.”
At the beginning of this grand adventure of living in Brooklyn and attending Pratt, I experienced great emotional turmoil, a struggle with judging others, and a rather melodramatic outlook on my experience as a daughter of the High King going to school at Pratt…and I must make a disclaimer that I do still struggle with most of these things. I felt like the entire world was against me, I was experiencing such great challenges, and this was certainly only the beginning. And yet, looking back now, I was very selfish and rather naive in my thinking.
“Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” (Hebrews 12:3-4)
That first year or so of school, I wasn’t mission-focused, and what I mean by that is that I failed to see the call on my life to make disciples, to be discipled, and to fully embrace my role as a Christ-light to the world around me. Overpowered by darkness? Under pressure from sin? What could I possibly be thinking? “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). The environment was different and rough and actively opposing God, but the enemy had nothing on me, no real battle had yet been waged, and I was unaware of God’s fixed victory in which He’d created me to walk.
MADE FOR CHANGE:
After the conclusion of Monday night Bible study in the Pie Shop, Laura found a little piece of paper bag that had “Hail Satan” written in pencil on it. Someone from the table next to ours, now empty, had left it on her backpack.
And my own response surprised me.
I did not feel threatened. I did not feel discouraged. The exact opposite, actually: I got really, really excited. I would hardly call this persecution, not when compared to those who are, at this very moment, living in Christ throughout the world and dying for it, and not when compared even to some of the other things we in this Bible study, this Christian community at Pratt, have experienced from our professors and in our familial circumstances over the past year. What I would call this, however, is reaction. We must be doing something right if others are responding in this way, if in our pursuit of God and our living out life set free by His passionate pursuit of us the enemy is reacting with such tactics. Even if it is a small pushback, it is an enthralling pushback nonetheless.
The reason I tell you this, is that since sophomore year when I finally acted on God’s desire to turn the world of Pratt upside down, I have seen Him set people free, rescue them from great doubt, transform the way they see the world, and watch Him lovingly overwhelm every single area of their lives.
During that same time, I have been hit with difficult and heart wrenching familial circumstances, great onslaughts of random insecurity, doubt, mean people (as in those who mistreat others for mistreatment’s sake, which I don’t think I’d yet experienced), miscommunications of all shapes and sizes, and a big looming question of “Why do bad things happen to those that God loves?”
AN ANSWER TO PRAYER:
At the beginning of this school year (back in September), Jacob (my fiancé) and I read through You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity, written by Francis and Lisa Chan. It was while reading this book that I was convicted about not always praying for growth in Christ’s humility, suffering, and forgiveness. I’d much rather grow in His teaching, kindness, or patience. And so, I prayed through tears that God would sift out my character so that I could grow into this new identity He’s given me as His daughter, so that I could become evermore like His Son, and have a greater, more complete understanding of exactly who He is.
Throughout this year, my circumstances and my responses to them have revealed in me the following: pride, selfishness, bitterness, resentment, impatience, and a great and grand desire to be comfortable. Never before do I remember being brought so low in my faith. There were nights I lay on the tiles of the bathroom floor in my dorm, crying silently, my heart too broken to form words to pray. There were Skype dates with Jacob when I would be in shambles before him and full of great fear and pain and confusion. And there were always days when I would wake up and say “Lord, I can’t do this anymore.” And He would somehow right my perspective, if just for a moment, to remind me of what He has done, is doing, and will do.
If you pray for God to grow you to be more like Him, He will answer you with a resounding “YES.”
And now it is finals’ month. Crunch time. Too many assignments and too little time. Too much caffeine and too little sleep. And yet God has brought His people out of the woodwork, used me and the other people in Bible study to answer the prayers of others, and He’s brought most of us low enough to see how desperately we need Him. Even now, my pride is rearing within me out of a hope to receive some kind of praise concerning how “well” “ministry at Pratt” is going…but looking back on the years in college, I have been nothing but a broken mess, a solidly selfish, desperately prideful, hard-hearted princess living in a stretch of skin that no longer reflects the new Spirit placed within her. And so it has not been anything of me.
God has moved, and in His infinite grace, His fierce protection, and His unconditional love He has decided to let me come along for the ride. And, oh, what a ride it has been, and, oh, what a ride it has yet to be 🙂
“The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:16)