Ever since I came to college I have been able to feel myself changing: from the first time I went home again for Thanksgiving break to this semester. I am not the same person I was two months ago.
What is changing me?
At first it may have been my being away from home for the first time; my entering into a completely new environment where I was relatively on my own and knew almost no one. Of course I was going to change—become more independent, outgoing, and generally more like the people I spent time with. Then perhaps I learned how to manage my time better, and how to make my faith my own a little more.
So I am now in my fourth semester of college, and I am still changing. Why?
While we are never truly stagnant in our growth and development as people, there is a factor present in my life, and the lives of every Dordt student, that makes our growth much more noticeable: our education.
Oh, of course: we came to college to get an education. We came to be filled with a four-year-degree-bucket-full of knowledge, that we can then go out and use at our jobs. Teachers learn how to teach. Engineers learn how to build stuff. Nurses learn how to take care of patients. Theology majors learn how to interpret the Bible. It’s what we paid for; what’s in the contract. So when I say that I’m being changed, I must mean that I’m being more fully trained for whatever career I’m hoping to begin after college.
Well, no, not exactly. You see, I am a double Communication and English major. If education is simply job-training, then I need to re-think my major choices.
Actually, the heart of education—at least a liberal arts education that Dordt provides—is that is changes you as a person: you are not simply given information, you are challenged to use it. You are not simply prepared to be a good worker, but also a good citizen, neighbor, reader, and family member.
In his book, Why Read?, Mark Edmundson says that a liberal arts education is about developing our “final narratives”: what we believe about life and God and each other. It is about examining who we are so that we can then change who we are in a very conscious and pointed way. Edmundson describes education as “a high-stakes affair, a pursuit in which souls are won or lost.”1
Edmudson is not a Christian, so he essentially believes that each person should find his or her own truth. We, however, are Christians. We challenge ourselves and probe into every area of our lives, but we have something to direct all our probings. As we wander around looking for truth, we have something to unify our findings: the words of God found in the Bible, and the Word of God incarnate. And we have the Spirit of God, who does not leave us to ourselves or our own reason.
Edmundson believes that students should be shaped into a good person according to their own standards. We believe that students should be shaped into a good person according to the standards of the Bible (aka, Christ).
To the parents of liberal arts students: when you send your child to Dordt, expect her to change. Expect her to question what you have taught her. Expect him even to disagree with you. This is scary stuff—is it worth the risk?
To my own parents: thank you. Thank you for letting me ask questions. Thank you for always being there for me to give support and guidance. Thank you for letting me pick majors that don’t seem very practical. Most of all, thank you for teaching me that we cannot save ourselves, but are saved by God Himself. For this reason, and this alone, can I let myself change without fear.
Above are pictures of me with my two wonderful parents.
1. Edmundson, Mark. Why Read? New York, NY: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2004. Print