Sunday, November 25, 2007

Back to the Ranch

This afternoon marks just the second time I have returned to Wheaton after a break, the first being fall break over the penultimate weekend of October, and this most recent one being Thanksgiving. It's a different feeling, coming back to a residential school after being home for a few days. Not quite like coming back from a youth group retreat, but it's the closest similar situation. I am glad to be back, though. A year ago, I was in the midst of the period of waiting between application and notification, and now this 80-acre campus, recently decorated for the Christmas season, feels like home.

Home. It's an interesting word, isn't it? The Oxford English Dictionary defines "home" as "the place where one lives." I'll accept that. I do refer to the house where I grew up and where my parents and younger brother currently reside as home, and when I say "I'm going home," that is the geographic location to which I refer. But the reader knows what I mean when I use the phrase "feels like home." So there must be some other connotation to the word.

Note the use of the word "feels" in the idiom. So the object of the phrase, while not a replica, has some quality that resembles home. Wheaton College has many qualities that resemble my parents' house in Oak Park. Material things, of course, but obviously the phrase means immaterial entities that remind one of home.

So, what immaterial qualities does Wheaton College have that remind me of home? I could come up with a list of decent length, I'm sure, but at the top of it, without question, is people who love and support me and whom I love and support back.

I have said it before, and this is something else I will continue to say: it's the people around us that make life worth living. It's through them that God expresses His love for us, and we demonstrate our love for Him by loving the people around us.

And what better place to do that than at a place that feels like home? In the few hours I have been back on campus, I've reconnected with some of the other men on my floor, and I'm looking forward to seeing all my other friends here at Wheaton throughout the day tomorrow. I've had more than one tough week this semester, and this one is a prime candidate for that list also, but it's the mutually encouraging and supportive relationships I have, and the grace of God manifested through them, that get me through.

This is Rubio, over and out.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Reflections on Friendship

It's been a very full week here at Wheaton College. I had three substantial tests (all of which went reasonably well), lots of evening activities, and the cold weather is finaly here to stay. I'm particularly excited for what's happening tonight: the Artist Series is presenting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra! An upperclassman friend told me that this is the first time in something like 20 years that the CSO has come to Wheaton. Two of my favorite institutions will be joined tonight. I can't wait.

All three chapels this week were connected under the series title, "The Making of Friendship." Last month, a sociology professor and a CFM professor sent out a survey via e-mail to the whole campus community, asking for objective information on our friend situations and also some subjective thoughts on the same. I took the survey with mild curiosity as to what the results would be.

On Monday, these two professors presented the survey results with some commentary based on their professional expertise. Most of the statistics were about what I expected, and I was also interested to learn that the faculty, staff, and administration had been included in the survey (I hadn't known that when I first took it myself).

For Wednesday's chapel, the student body was divided by gender. At men's chapel, two graduate students spoke about their same-gender friendship and two faculty members spoke about their opposite-gender friendship.

Then today, the student body was divided by class. At freshman chapel, a psychology professor spoke about "The Theology of Friendship" and a panel of freshmen spoke about their experiences making friends at Wheaton.

I really enjoyed this chapel series. I have had very little trouble making friends here at Wheaton, but it was really encouraging to here the institution acknowledging and encouraging the cultivation of friendships within the Wheaton community. On Monday and Friday, the topic of balancing friends with all our other responsibilities as students. The professors who spoke acknowledged that the school does put a fair amount of pressure on the students to achieve high standards academically, but by no means recommended that we ignore the people around us in the interest of our grades. We were encouraged to invest time into our friendships, because at the end of the day, when the books are closed, it's the people in our lives that make life worth living.

Wheaton College isn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination. We are quite skilled at getting results academically and professionally, but sometimes we forget the One who blessed us with those skills. But then there are times when we do remember, and we see the people around us the He loves so much, and it suddenly feels natural to choose them over our homework.

I've said it before, and I will say it again as long as I have breath: I firmly believe that God wants me at Wheaton College. He has brought so many amazing people into my life in the last two and a half months, and He has allowed me to maintain a lot of the relationships I developed during my high school years, and He has blessed me with the ability to stay in touch with my family. It's my relationship with those people, the men and women who love me and care about me, that God is using to show just how much He loves me more than any other experience I could have.

This is Rubio, over and out.