Monday, August 18, 2008

Returning to Wheaton

This week Thursday, I return to Wheaton College.

The journey itself is not complicated. Sometime after breakfast, my mom will drive me (and a carload of luggage) out to the College. The chore of packing is also not complicated – two suitcases of clothes; two boxes or so with books, bedding, and miscellaneous items; hangers of dress clothes; my bookbag; and (incredibly, after a dozen trips back and forth between Oak Park and Wheaton in the last year I have yet to forget) my trombone. Oh, and a shopping bag full of snacks. Snacks are an absolute essential. I should have all my belongings moved from my bedroom in Oak Park to my dorm room in Wheaton before lunchtime.

In the space of a few hours, then, I will have moved back to Wheaton College. As early as that evening, I will be busy. This fall, I am serving as a Big Sib for freshman orientation. My Big Sib partner, A.J. Althoff, and I will have a small group of about eight freshmen with whom we will meet three times during orientation week. The first meeting is immediately following the orientation kick-off Thursday night. I am excited to be a Big Sib. The Big Sib meetings during my own freshman orientation last fall were really enjoyable for me, so I am looking forward to being able to give some of that back to the incoming freshman class.

When asked what about my return to Wheaton I am most looking forward to, some obvious answers come to mind: my girlfriend, my small group, my other friends, fun over meals in Saga, concerts, and things like that. But there are a few specific things that are not so obvious.

First, I am really looking forward to my private lessons starting again in a couple of weeks. The performance component of my curriculum is decidedly the most fun, and my lessons both semesters of my freshman year were extremely rewarding. I have really missed my private lessons and my instructor, Audrey Morrison, this summer, so I am really excited for that to start again. Also, the trombone studio will welcome three new freshmen this year, and having a studio almost twice the size of last year’s will be a treat.

Also, although I have not been out to the campus at all this summer, I know that some major changes have occurred. Major construction for capital projects in the Promise Campaign started just as the 2009 spring semester ended, and I have no doubt that crews have made significant progress in the intervening three months. The most exciting of these projects for most people (and probably the most exciting visually, I will allow) will be the new science center, on the southwest corner of Howard and University, but I am more excited for the extension to Edman Memorial Chapel. As a stage manager, my work regularly takes me into various parts of the building, and the sudden existence of new spaces (the extension is scheduled for use beginning in January) is really exciting for me.

Finally, I am just excited about the concept of being a returning student. As a freshman, almost everything is new when you go to college. (I say almost everything because of course I was already familiar with the campus and a handful of fellow students.) But as a returning student, you are coming back to the same classrooms, the same dining hall, most of the same friends, and (though it will undoubtedly still shock me when it turns nasty) the same weather. Not everything will be the same, of course, and I am interested to see what will be new about my life as a returning Wheaton College student this fall.

I definitely have a lot to look forward too. I do not for a moment believe that this semester will be without challenges, but I look forward to what God will teach me in the coming months and what invaluable experience I will gain. And I am sure that this semester will have a lot of fun times, too. All together, I cannot wait to get back to Wheaton College. It is from that amazing place that I shall next post to the Rubio Room.

This is Rubio, over and out.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Before the Fall

I have called myself a Christian, a sinner surrendered to the grace of the God, for almost seven years (I consider my spiritual birthday to be October 20, 2001). The challenges and struggles I have had in my walk with Christ in the interim are most likely similar to other people who gave their lives to Christ in their early teens and are now young adults. I wrote last fall about my (albeit low-key) struggles with self-worth and how I was learning to find my identity in Christ. Starting college started that particular journey, and after a year I know that I have made progress.

Another struggle common to Christians my age is pride and related struggles, overconfidence in our own skills and intellect, excess of ambition, and failure to trust God with our futures. Such is my topic for reflection in this post.

A note of explanation: recent events in my personal life, which I shall not detail here, have brought me to the revelation that I have failed miserably in the area of trusting God with my future. I have a natural talent for organization and planning, which is extremely beneficial in some of my engagements, but I have learned that it can be very harmful to myself and to others to attempt to plan my life and then assume that the plan is nonnegotiable. God knows precisely what the future holds, and He knows precisely the best path for me to take through the future. As my former senior pastor, Ray Pritchard, often said, “When you need to know, you’ll know.” The fact that I don’t know exactly what my future holds means that I don’t need to know right now.

Now consider ambition, skills, and intellect. All are neutral components of human beings. God has given us the ability to absorb knowledge and then use knowledge to draw conclusions. He has given us minds to intelligently use our bodies in a variety of activities and tasks, from the simple daily acts of eating and talking to the complex activities that form our vocations. The problem is that we forget the role of God behind everything, and we attempt to take control of our lives into our own hands. I do not believe that it is a sin to want to make quality, or even laudable, contributions to human knowledge and experience (one definition of ambition), but lacking a God-glorifying attitude can be very dangerous.

Satan works in more ways than one. He often directly tempts men and women to sin against God by hurting people, but just as often he takes good actions and tempts us to take the credit for the ingenuity, sacrifice, effort, or whatever else led to it. At this point, we are falling into the sin of pride.

I am sure that you have heard the phrase, “pride comes before the fall.” Actually, the phrase could also be, “pride came before the Fall.” Adam and Eve, too, failed to trust God to know what was best for them and to have everything under control. Rather, they tried to take their lives into their own hands, thought they had found a better way, and the rest is the history of a fallen world.

The solution, of course, is what the writer of Hebrews says: “fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith” (12:2a). He alone knows what is best for us, and the challenge is to surrender ourselves to Him. It is extraordinarily difficult, and I am not sure whether total surrender can be achieved in this life.

But that does not mean we should avoid starting the journey in this life. I have decided to adopt that reference from Hebrews as a personal mission statement for my life, at least for this coming school year. I will be sure to comment on this topic again in the spring.

This is Rubio, over and out.