This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for my Christian education.
(And before you groan and close this tab, I promise this isn’t going to be a typical, cheesy, go-around-the-feasting-table-and-list-all-the-menial-things-that-you’re-thankful-for-that-you-don’t-often-consciously-give-thanks-for sort of Thanksgiving Day post.)
From kindergarten through senior year of high school, I attended a public charter school, and I loved it. I absolutely loved it. God used my time there to stretch my faith in tremendous ways. He provided teachers that were more like mentors, showing me how to find and cultivate what’s meaningful. He used many of those mentors to affirm me and confirm my passions, propelling me into my current majors and career goals. He integrated friends into my life who had never interacted with Jesus personally, and He used the work He was doing in my life to spark work in their lives.
And if I had decided to attend a state college, I’m sure God would have continued to stretch me there, too. I would have encountered people with entirely different backgrounds than mine. I would have encountered people of different faiths, different worldviews, different life experiences. I would have encountered professors that taught material contrary to my beliefs, and I would have had to fight for what I know to be true in academic, social, and spiritual realms. This is one of the primary reasons why so many of my Christian friends have decided on large state schools known for partying culture: they want to be immersed in a place so different than their roots that will challenge their beliefs and, in turn, draw them closer to God by forcing them to answer why they believe what they believe and why they behave the way they behave.
I didn’t decide on a state school, though. I decided on Dordt. And you know what? All of those same claims still hold true.
Do I encounter people with entirely different backgrounds than mine? Absolutely. Some of my closest friends are from foreign countries. Some grew up as only children, while others had eight older sisters. Some grew up on a farm, and some grew up in inner city Chicago. Some grew up Catholic, and some grew up immersed in the CRC world of Gems/Cadets. Some grew up learning to compost and reuse all their Ziploc bags for the sake of the environment, while others grew up eating out regularly and purchasing new outfits just as often as washing old ones.
Do I have to fight for my beliefs in the academic realm? Absolutely. Rather than discussion regarding whether God exists or not, though, I’m operating within a community that presumes His existence and, instead, discusses the nature of His character. Instead of laying a foundation of yes-God-exists-and-this-is-why, we’re building on the basics by discussing who He is, what it means to be saved, what He’s currently up to here in the states and overseas. How is He at work in our political realm? What does He think about women in church office? What about predestination and election? And the Christianity and science conflict, does it exist? Rather than my basic faith becoming firmer, my faith is becoming broader because of my Christian education. I still have to answer why I believe what I believe, though those beliefs are more detail oriented than general faith.
Do I still struggle to remain faithful in the social realm? Absolutely. Just because Dordt is a Christian institution, not every student claims to be a Christian. And even if the vast majority of us do, we’re not perfect. We don’t always make God-honoring, Friday-night decisions. Some of us stand up for our faith when presented with a potentially harmful social activity. Some of us don’t, and we deal with the consequences. We do so in a grace-filled environment, though, an environment where the primary goal is to draw us back to Christ, not to draw us back to a standard of morality through arbitrary punishment. I still have to answer for why I behave the way I behave, even though I’m at a college that many assume to house a uniform student body.
I’m sure that God would have used a public university to grow me tremendously, and I’m sure He’s calling lots of Christian students and Christian professors to invest their time at large state schools. God grows us wherever we are, regardless of our circumstance. He’s not limited to Christian education – or Christian literature, Christian music, or anything designated “Christian,” for that matter. He’s so much bigger than that. If we truly believe He’s sovereign over everything (read: “every square inch”), then we have to believe He’s at work even in places that don’t blatantly declare His praise.
However, I’m grateful that He chose to grow me at Dordt. I’m just grateful for being where I am, for being who I am, and for being with the people I’m with as I do my four years of Christian education. And even if it’s become a cliché, I’m thankful for a day to remember the One who gifts all things worth gratitude.
"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." - James 1:17
(So perhaps this was a cheesy Thanksgiving Day post, and perhaps my intro deceived you. Forgive me? I’m simply expressing true sentiment that is only a cliché because it is true for so many of us.)