Read Well, Live Well

Semester Kinsey SmithThe day I arrived at Summit Semester I pulled my heavy suitcase into my room. I looked around with interest at the space I would be living in for the next three months. A couple of bunk beds, a wardrobe, and several shelves. It was the pile of books sitting on top of my desk that immediately caught my attention. It was enormous. Oh my. Do they actually expect me to read all of those? In one semester?

Yes, they do. And, to my own surprise, I’ve been able to keep up fairly well. You see, here at Semester, books aren’t just assignments. They’re a way of life. Something that we’ve learned through our studies is how the very fabric of this world is composed of words. God spoke the universe into existence. Language is inextricably woven into reality. Reading a book is a way of entering another’s mind; of seeing the world through a new lens. It helps to broaden our perspective.

To learn to read well is to learn to live well. The leaders and teachers at Semester understand this. They’re not just giving us information to repeat back. They’re teaching us the power of words; that they have the ability to change us in the deepest part of our being. Gaining an understanding of this is to understand how to carry out the Great Commission and our own particular callings. Our readings have covered all kinds of topics: philosophy, economics, church history, classical literature, and devotionals. However, the thing that has affected me most deeply is what we’ve learned about the Story.

When Dr. Williams was here, he explained to us that mankind loves stories because he is a story. The Scriptures are a narrative; an incredible tale of betrayal, sacrifice, redemption and reconciliation. G.K. Chesterton portrayed God as the Great Storyteller, and Tolkien described human beings as “sub-creators.” We make by the law in which we’re made (from Tolkien’s essay “On Faerie Stories”, a particular favorite of Dr. Williams). We have studied some of the greatest stories in the English language. These authors understood the art of crafting a believable character and guiding them through struggles and triumphs to arrive at a satisfying conclusion.

Our role as Semester students is to read these works and glean understanding from them. But in the coming years I have no doubt that our absorption of writings will change into contributions. If the words of these great authors have the ability to change us, we also can harness that ability to change the culture. I’ve personally gained a staggering amount of inspiration. And I’m not the only one.

Many of the students here are writers, whether that be songs, poetry, short stories or novels. Over the last couple of weeks we’ve established a Creative Writer’s Group; a place where we can read excerpts from our works and then receive encouragement and constructive criticism. We’re planning to launch a forum of some kind when we return home so that we can continue helping one another in our creative endeavors.

I’ve always loved to read and to write, but over the last couple of years I’ve let those things fall by the wayside. Although I didn’t know it, I began to see novels and storytelling as luxuries; things that needed to be sacrificed for the “really important life-stuff.” Being here at Semester has dramatically changed my perspective. Not only am I constantly around people who enjoy reading and writing, but I’m also being taught that these things are vital to a well-rounded, Christian life. Granted, it may not be everyone’s calling to write stories, but everyone is affected by them. Redeeming the culture will begin by redeeming its stories.

I never expected Semester to be easy, but I thought that my time here would simply be a welcome break from the busyness of everyday life. I would meet new people and study interesting topics. I didn’t realize what a special community would develop. I care so deeply about these people and feel honored to call them my friends. I also never expected to receive so much inspiration and direction. God has placed a passion in my heart for writing and telling stories. I can’t express my gratitude that He used Semester to “wake up” that desire again. When I return home I know that I will see writing no longer as a luxury that must be sacrificed, but as an integral part of my calling and who I am as a person. It’s exhilarating to think that my passion for storytelling is God-given.

As for now, I’m soaking in every minute of the community here at Snow Wolf Lodge. It’s been a better experience than I ever could have dreamed.

Kinsey Smith journeyed to Snow Wolf Lodge from Edmond, Oklahoma. She was influenced to attend by her time at the Summit Summer program in 2013. This past year, God has been working greatly in Kinsey’s life, challenging her to make her faith her own and hold tightly to the core of the Gospel while seeking its application in other areas. She has also recently been influenced by the life of William Wilberforce. Because of his example, Kinsey has been encouraged to fight for the innocent and helpless. During her time at Summit Semester, Kinsey expects to grow in her ability to think critically and to develop good habits that will enable her to strengthen her walk with the Lord and live in His will.