By Nathan Davis (Illinois)
I find that while I’ve spent some time here at Summit Semester I’ve begun asking big questions once again.
Unlike other big questions I’ve had, these stem from beginning to understand how to think clearly, not from confusion. I think I owe much of this to two things which are built into Summit Semester: rhythm and rest.
While Semester allows many typical freedoms, it also offers another form of freedom: structure. The rhythms of work, meals, community, academics, recreation, silence and rest have helped me begin to see what a well-lived life looks like. From our times of prayer and confession at most meals to our times in class, we are encouraged to examine why we are doing what we do and just what it means to live well.
Neither busyness nor idleness is idolized in our activities.
This drastically different than how I saw my classmates living back at school. They often tried to live at both extremes simultaneously, through excessive work combined with gaming and partying. We may have times of rest or busyness in our Christian lives, but they are not ends within themselves. This has become apparent in my short time here.
Our rhythms of rest, work, prayer, silence, and recreation are present in both our daily and weekly rhythms. These activities have aided me in clearing my mind to begin to think and live well in this place.
A change in the way that I see rest is also slowly revealing itself as a result of these rhythms. After two years of engineering school and staffing Summit’s summer program, I find the pace here quite relaxed. I often wonder how to fill my time. The time on my hands drove me crazy at first. It is becoming apparent just how much I use my work to hide from my emotions.
A specific challenge in this area has been our allotted solitude time.
In this time, we grab a Bible, maybe a prayer book or a hammock, and go sit for an hour in the woods. No phones, no distractions, no assignments, just the woods, your thoughts, the convictions of the Holy Spirit, and the (dis)comfort of silence. As I said, I hide from challenging things by turning to work, distraction and busyness. With that gone, it has been interesting to see how I react. So far, it has been both comforting and disquieting, a breath of fresh air followed later by a punch to the gut. The clearness of thought, realignment of motivations, and the beauty of silence in nature followed with the convictions of the spirit of things done and left undone. Despite this, I am beginning to relish these times as I realize just how refreshing they are. As I seek to learn the rhythms of proper rest, rest’s importance has become evident. It allows a purposefulness and stability not present in the anxiety and confusion of our culture.
If I’m honest with myself, Semester is one of the first opportunities I’ve taken in a long while to examine my life, thoughts, and emotions. These rhythms and times of rest are beginning to aid me in thinking about big questions, ideas, and past experiences. I am both hopeful and nervous about tackling these things, but happy that I am finally beginning to think about what it means to live an examined and balanced life.