Thursday, September 27, 2007

Man Plans and God Laughs

Tonight marks five weeks since I moved in to Wheaton College. I just stated that fact to my roommate, Sam Ostransky. His response was that it feels like a lot longer, and I agree. The past thirty-five days have been some of the most exciting of my life. I'd like to reflect on them briefly.

Thirty-six days ago I was going to bed in my childhood home in Oak Park, within a few steps of my parents and brother, and wondering what the next day would hold. Practically, of course, I knew it would involve driving out to campus, unpacking my belongings, meeting Sam and my RA, Craig Miller, and a few other orientation activities. But I was also thinking about what would happen as I transitioned into a completely new social and somewhat new spiritual environment. Over the summer, I had met a few other members of my freshman class on Facebook, and I was looking forward to meeting them. I was also looking forward to being in a distinctly, actively Christian community.

Being the task-oriented, organized person that I am, I thought that I had college life all figured out by the time I arrived. I may have, to some extent, as evidenced by the lack of major problems for me during orientation week. But, as I have realized, that attitude of thinking I was in complete control of my life was keeping me from fully experiencing what God had in store for me even in the first month of college. So He shook my life up a little bit. Allow me to give a specific example.

Tuesday and Wednesday of this week were both very busy days. Monday night, I was a little worried about how I would get to all my scheduled activities (a few more than usual) and complete all my homework and practicing in the time I had. I was also suffering from a slight cold, which meant that I was trying to get through busier than usual days with less than the usual amount of energy.

So Monday night, before I went to bed, I asked God to help me get through the next two days. I think it was in that moment that I stopped worrying about how I would do that and started trusting God to take care of everything. And, praise God, He did. It's almost ironic: the minute I stopped worrying about how I would get everything done, I was able to do just that. I was able to get to all my classes, rehearsals, and meetings, get all my homework done, and even have some time to enjoy the company of my friends.

Letting go of the control I have over my life has always been a struggle for me. I have a natural tendency to want everything planned, defined, identified, and free of complications. Quite obviously, life is very rarely like that (even in pure mathematics you have variables!), so I've had more than the usual amount of frustration when life doesn't go the way I'd like it to. Sometimes I try to do things my way even when I know that God would have me do it a different way. In those times, I often find myself failing, but God is always ready to restore me and lead me back to the path he has for me.

Giving God control of my life is something I've been doing little by little since I became a Christian almost six years ago. Going to college has definitely triggered a substantial amount of letting go on my part, and as a result, God has blessed me richly. He has given me wonderfully supportive friends and teachers, not to mention my unendingly supportive family back home. He has given me physical, emotional, intellectural, and spiritual strength when I thought I had none. And He has given me a little taste of the future He has in store for me. I truly believe that it was by the perfect will of God alone that I am here at Wheaton College, and I truly believe that He will use my time here in ways that are better than I could ever have imagined. I long to be the man of Christ that God has designed me to be, and I know that as I surrender to Him, He will continue to mold me into His image.

The verse that has defined my life for the past few years is First Timothy 1:12: "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who gave me strength, that He considered me faithful, appointing me to His service." My prayer on this five-week mark is that God alone would receive the glory from my accomplishments here at Wheaton College.

This is Rubio, over and out.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Wheaton College - Academics

I have now been at Wheaton for two weeks. I already wrote about what went on during the first six days, orientation, but I've almost been too busy these past eight days to even think about how much has happened, let alone reflect on it and write about it. But I think now I'll give it a shot.

I have seven classes this semester. Here follows a list with some commentary:

Aural Skills I - Easily my hardest class. Sight singing and dictation are the two components. But they are two very important skills for a musicians, so I intend to give it my best.

Class Piano I - The Conservatory requires that I pass a piano proficiency exam in order to earn a degree, and I have elected to do so by completing the class piano sequence. So far, no problems. I am somewhat self-taught at piano, I just have never had formal instruction.

Intro to Music Tech - Now this is a fun class. Tuesday, for example, we had a lecture on the interior hardware of Apple computers. I am really glad that the Conservatory requires this class; technology is only going to become a more important tool for musicians in coming decades.

Music Theory I - I took AP Music Theory in high school, but even amidst the topics that are review for me, I am learning a few new ideas. Here's something my instructor said during yesterday's lecture that really stood out to me: "Music is not always an exact science; sometimes more than one answer exists. The important issue is the reasoning behind each answer, and if it lends something to the listening experience."

Physics of Music - I did not register for this course when I originally registered for classes in June. But, after consulting with my advisor early last week, I dropped a literature course that AP English Literature credit made unnecessary and replaced it with physics. I think I'll like this class. It's basically acoustics, so half the curriculum is studying how instruments produce sound and the other half how auditoriums and similar facilities are built. And I just finished two years of physics in high school, so the physicist's methodology is still fresh in my mind.

Single Reed Techniques - To teach music, one has to be proficient enough on every instrument to correct students. The first instrument I will learn (after trombone and piano) is the clarinet, and then, next quad, saxophone. Clarinet isn't all that hard, actually. I'm sure my tone is horrible and my intonation is worse, but I am getting the notes!

Wellness - This is the required introductory course for applied health sciences, both as a major and within the general education program. It's half lecture/half lab. The lecture components involve study of contemporary issues and biblical perspectives on health and wellness. The lab component involves varied physical activities. I think that I might actually get something out of this class. It's certainly unlike anything I've ever formally studied before.

In addition, I am taking private trombone lessons and performing with the symphonic band, both of which are credit-earning courses. So I have a very full academic schedule this semester, but I'm confident that I will be successful.

But of course, there is more to Wheaton College than its rigorous academic programs. More on other elements of the college life later.

This is Rubio, over and out.