So, I’m driving away from the coast. In the mirror the water is gorgeous… I can’t help thinking as I go, ‘Why would I ever want to leave this?’ Especially for where I’m heading…
Every day of college, I made the drive out of, in my opinion, the most beautiful part of San Diego: La Jolla. As I headed down Torrey Pines to merge onto the 52 east, I would always glance up into the rearview mirror and get one last glimpse of the vast ocean behind me. And every day I wondered why I was driving away from it instead of turning my rusted ‘98 Honda CR-V around and hitting the beach.
But I was a college student. And I had morning classes.
Now, let me back up just a second. Before you start to think that I am some Richie Rich living in La Jolla, just remember that key phrase: I was a college student. At a private Christian School, in fact. And worse, I was a college student at a private christian school whose parents couldn’t pay for me to go there. Basically what I am saying is that I will be paying off student loans for the next 30 years. Musings for a different blog though, as I digress.
While I was in college, I lived (and currently still do) beneath a good friends’ loft in a shoe box sized studio with my wife and dog (and now our son, Hunter). Our landlord is a generous man who gives us a smokin’ deal on rent. So, we are truly blessed to be able to live in La Jolla and still afford other things. Like food… and toothpaste… that’s pretty much all we can afford actually.
Anyways, back to leaving La Jolla for school. Yes, I drove away from paradise everyday to the underwear drawer of San Diego: El Cajon. The redeeming value of this trek?
I got to go to school.
I know what you’re thinking: “Whoa now, dude, don’t get all educated on us… Just cause you graduated from a Christian college doesn’t mean you have to pretend to like school.” Well the truth is, I don’t like school. I don’t like busy work, I hate tests, group projects frustrate me and I LOATHE any paper over two pages. So why would I tout “going to school” as the redeeming value of leaving La Jolla?
In one of my previous posts from my college days, I outlined the unusual take away I received from sitting through a Theology One class with Professor (and Pastor) Steve Whitten. Instead of just learning about theology, I also learned that I needed to cut some stuff out of my life and re-prioritize how I spent my time. You see, the takeaway, and what I had come to love about going to school every day, is the unexpected lessons we learn amongst the busy work, tests — and yes — even papers.
One semester, I had the pleasure of taking a History class with Dr. Jon DePriest. Taking this class was actually unexpected in itself. I was already enrolled in another history class. Sensing that it was going to be a little more than I bargained for when it came to assignments (cause I’m lazy), I began the search for a different history class. At the same time, my friend Erik was “recruiting” for HI 422 which Dr. DePriest had agreed to let count toward history gen. ed. credit. DePriest was also the VP of Education at the school so he could do those sorts of things.
Works for me!
Anyways, what you need to know about this class is that it was about the history of Christianity in America and the curriculum was based on 7 books that ranged from 160-300 pages each. Yikes! You also should know that my expectation was to skim those 7 books, study with Erik and skate through this course with maybe a solid B-.
Little did I know…
I found myself at the end of this history class looking back on how it, like Theology One, was the most pleasant surprise of the semester; And quite possibly one of the most formative classes that I had taken at SDCC.
Needless to say, there were a few all-nighters trying to finish each book and write a response journal in time for the discussions. At one point, Erik and I had to share a book, I would read for a few days, then he would read. It didn’t work out well at all. Then there was the time that I ordered the book too late and it showed up the day before the book discussion. I got about half a chapter in and realized there was no way I was gonna get that book done. Did I mention it was an 8AM class, and I am chronically late to everything? Man, I had trouble making that drive every Tuesday and Thursday.
But for all the sleepless nights and book sharing fiascoes there were some powerful moments of learning that semester. Our final book, American Evangelicalism, was in essence a culmination of what the other books were building up to. In reading it, I was faced with some tough issues about who I am as a believer. I came to realize that I am a product of a version of Christianity which has sprung up in our nation that may not be entirely biblical. I won’t go into great detail about this, but just to get an idea, here is an excerpt from one of my journals.
“…so many of us think that being the light consists of imposing our moral values on people whom we haven’t even shared the message of the Gospel with… Instead of shaking our fists at a depraved world who is darkened in their thinking and actions, we should be bringing the light of the Gospel to them. Good “moral conduct” and “Christian agendas” are not the cure to the disease of sin the world faces. Jesus Christ is. We are prescribing the wrong medicine! And man, I feel like preaching it…”
What I saw time and time again in these books were ways in which those who have gone before us have tried to come up with the purest form of Christianity, but fell desperately short. And here we are in 2015 thinking we have finally got it right. But we are just as wrong as they were.
None of these books showed us the end-all ideal way to follow Christ that we should strive for. But they did show us plenty of things that I certainly don’t want to strive for. And what I saw in Dr. DePriest (like many of my professors) was a man passionate about pushing students to figure this stuff out; To make meaningful decisions about who you want to be and what you want to stand for in the body of Christ. I can think of nothing more important or valuable.
Now, I am not sure what we as the Church need to do to get its act together and follow Jesus, but on the other side of my college experience, I feel have a better sense of what I need to do. And that’s to always keep the spreading of the Gospel the main focus of who I am and how I interact with others.
If you’re still in college, wether Christian or not, it seems the most important thing you can do for yourself is to latch onto the real life lessons embedded in the sometimes mundane busy work, quizzes and projects.
‘Cause this is what we really learn in college.