Can you know the true nature of the world and still love the world? Can you have experienced the pain and tragedy and darkness that accompany this life, and continue to walk in hope? Is there a good enough “why” for living that can overcome any “how”? What does it truly mean to live in community with others?
These are but a few of the questions we have been faced with over the past few weeks. As the first month of Summit Semester has drawn to an end and each student has settled into their daily routines, we’ve adopted a set of commonalities that help us survive this intellectual boot camp. Perhaps the most important of these is humility.
There comes a point in each of our lives at which we are faced with life’s deepest questions and we realize that our very existence on this earth will remain devoid of meaning until and unless we get some answers. This is true of the world in general, not just at Snow Wolf Lodge. At this point in our life, we must be willing to lay down our pride and allow our false beliefs to be deconstructed, for you cannot build a new house on an old and faulty foundation. Once we have been “transformed by the renewing of our minds,” we are able to humbly pursue an answer to the question that lies within the heart of every person; what does it mean to be human?
The reality of the human condition is a balancing act of complexity and simplicity; infinitely beyond even the slightest comprehension, yet right under our noses. Discovering the remedy for this condition is a journey that has endured since the Fall of Man. It is a necessary process that, when done properly, will result in life-giving wisdom and an abundance of joy.
The first steps of the journey are always the hardest, though. It is easy to feel stuck in a state of oblivion; infinitely far from comprehending the entirety of life’s perplexities. After all, to run a race with no finish line is a hopelessly futile task, and to realize that you are but floating on the surface of an ocean with immeasurable depth is an intimidating reality. We cannot remain in this initial state of despair, though. We must undergo a shifting of our focus and no longer look inward, but upward. Romans 12:3 suggest to us that the only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him. In other words, by seeking to understand the character of God we will, by default, gain an understanding of our own identity, since we are made in his image.
One of the most valuable ways through which we can attune ourselves to the heart of our Creator is by living in a community. It is certainly true that traveling alone is far more efficient than traveling with others, but it is arguable that to travel alone is far less preferable simply because it is lonely. It is within our relationships with our community and with God that we discover what it means to be fully human as we were originally intended to be.
There are obvious obstructions to living in unison with one another though. We all began to realize this after week two of being in inescapably close proximity with thirty other college-aged students. Possibly the biggest hindrance to our relationships with others is the relationship we have with ourselves. As Dr. Steven Garber said, “The biggest fear we have that traces back to the Fall is: if you know me, you won’t love me.” Our generation is riddled with an overwhelming lack of self-worth that prevents us from forming genuine connections with others. Just as Adam and Eve hid from God because they were ashamed of their nakedness, we condemn vulnerability and clothe ourselves in a false sense of pride and independence. We are ashamed of what’s inside and we are incapable of receiving love because accepting the fact that people care about us requires us to accept the fact that we might actually be worth caring about; a truth we lost sight of long ago.
During my time at Summit, I have learned that this deceitful mentality is completely unjustified. The world is an inherently corrupt place and the very act of living is accompanied by the potential to be wounded, but this is not a good enough reason to believe the degrading lies fed to us by such an unreliable source. Psalms 139 tells us that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” and that is the truth. Denying the reality of our intrinsic worth is a form of pride, which keeps the rest of the world at arms length, thus inhibiting our ability to experience the true bonds of community.
Living amongst my peers at Snow Wolf Lodge has given me a deeper comprehension of the many facets of humility. At times, it demands of you a death to your own desires and a rather unpleasant submission to the need or authority of another. Other times, it is nothing more than a still small voice that gently encourages you to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Maybe the most significant manifestation of humility within a community, though, is honesty. Honesty about our own identity in Christ and honesty about our dependency upon the brotherhood of fellow Christians.
We were not created to exist as individuals. Yet we will never attain virtuous relationships without redefining our fundamental beliefs about ourselves. Growing within a group of likeminded Christians, like the one here at Semester, is an incredible experience that is worth seeking out, but it first requires a willingness to love and to be loved. The fact of the matter is, we are worth it. We are the treasure Christ thought worth everything he had and if we continue to question this we will miss out on the bigger picture. The moment we lay down our pride and humbly surrender our doubts, we realize that, on our own, we are incapable of accomplishing what was meant to be done together. In this moment, this state of complete vulnerability, the reality of the human condition has become quite clear.
Jordyn White recently graduated high school and comes to us from Austin, Texas. A gifted musician, she is passionate about worship and the capacity of music to connect with people and draw them closer to God. When she is not perfecting her abilities with an instrument or songwriting, she may be found expressing her creativity in other forms such as ceramics or cooking. Eager to bless others, she is excited about the possibility of utilizing scientific research and a biblical understanding of music to provide a unique form of music therapy and counseling. After Summit Semester, she hopes to attend Belmont University to major in either Songwriting or Music Therapy.