As our year comes to a close, and the class of 2015 steps off into the great big world, some of our senior writers, editors, and designers at Crown & Cross wrote a little about their experiences at Columbia and in the Christian community. In their four years here, Lilian Chow, Alex Liu and Tatianna Kufferath have given their hearts not only to Crown & Cross, but to their ministries, their friends, and most importantly, God.
“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.” Proverbs 16:9
As graduation looms only a matter of days away, anxiety levels are building, and so my mother sent me another scripture from Proverbs, continuing to encourage me to trust in the Lord. As I meditate on this verse, I’m overwhelmed by the many, many ways that I’ve tried to plan, plan, and plan some more over the course of these 4 years at college. Yet as it turns out, the most wonderful experiences have been all surprises from the Lord.
I stumbled upon Jube!, I hesitantly tried out CFA, I was skeptical about Crown & Cross, and had no idea what a Crown & Cross blog would even look like. But here I am, 4 years later, and God has been truly faithful. That doesn’t mean that everything has been rosy, easy, or a cruise. It just means that no matter what, I am confident that while I can make plans, and set up every little detail, God establishes my steps… just like He has with Crown & Cross.
When Siqi Cao first brought up doing a Christian journal, I admired her for her ambition and deeply wanted to be part of it, but couldn’t shake my skepticism that it was simply too big of a dream to accomplish. Yet, seeing CC&C continue to grow, reach out to new people, and produce amazing work, I am reminded to never underestimate God’s ability to use us to further His Kingdom. As I look back on the eight semesters I’ve spent here at Columbia, I’m deeply grateful for all the amazing people God has placed in my life: investing in me, encouraging me, loving me, and above all showing me more of what it must be like to live life with God-loving brothers and sisters.
As “real life” looms, here are a few words to our wonderful younger siblings who will be here for a little longer:
Always talk to God – even if things get really crappy. Sometimes I forgot and those times were really, really rough.
Appreciate your friends – tell them what you love about them, let them know you are grateful for them, you never know how far a few genuine and kind words can go.
Seizing opportunities ≠ overly ambitious. Often I worried that having ambition would contradict with humility, that opportunities should be sacrificed. But God gives us opportunities, gifts, abilities for a reason: there is absolutely nothing wrong with being ambitious for God.
And finally, never forget that God is faithful. It’s His nature, and so despite terrible circumstances, unjust situations, or simply very dry periods of spiritual life: He is faithful and He is right there beside you.
That’s what I will be holding onto as I leave college: because even when I am far away from my friends now, the many loved ones I’ve grown to hold dear here at Columbia, I know there is nowhere I will go that is apart from Him :)
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16
The advice I would give to underclassmen can be summed up in three words: Look to Jesus. Look to Jesus, look to Jesus, look to Jesus. There will be so many times during your time at Columbia (and there probably already have been) where the temptation to despair is very real. This despair may last for the time it takes to study for a final, or it could last for an entire semester or more. This is not meant to be morbid. The Columbia experience – particularly if you live it in intentional community with others – is unforgettable, amazing, and challenging in the best way. However, where much is promised, there are many opportunities for disappointment. At Columbia, there were times where I wished I’d worked harder or procrastinated less or done better on my coursework. There were times where I worried about money, convinced I was making my parents bankrupt. There were times where I felt I wouldn’t live up to the expectations of my mentors, professors, and parents, times where I really did disappoint them and had to face the consequences. There are times where I was so homesick and missing my family that I wished I had just stayed home and never gone here at all. There were times where I felt not good enough, where I was utterly convinced I was choosing the wrong path, in my life, in my career, in everything. There were times where my selfishness, my own exhaustion, my insecurities had led me to disappoint or hurt my roommate, my fiance, my friends. At best, I have loved them awkwardly and imperfectly. There were times where I wished I had been loved better, where I felt alone and misunderstood. There were times where living with and loving a community of people was so hard, and I wondered what God had in store. There were times where I wondered if I even loved God, if my sin could ever be broken, if I could ever see Jesus beyond my pride. There were times where I wished I’d been more eloquent in sharing my faith with my friends. There were times where I was mad at God and I wondered how he could allow such brokenness on this campus, in this city, in the world. And there will be a time, very soon, when I will walk onto a stage and have to say goodbye to a place that, despite the disappointments, has offered me four of the most amazing years of my life. I know others who have suffered much more extreme disappointments than mine (we only need to read the Spectator or Columbia Class Confessions to get a sense of that). With all these things to face, how do we survive? How do we get up and choose to keep going?
Three simple words: Look to Jesus. In ourselves, we are nothing. In ourselves, we can only offer to each other meager, frail pieces of hearts that are already broken by faults and insecurities. In ourselves, disappointment turns so easily to resentment. In ourselves, the hunger for achievement and recognition will never be satisfied. In ourselves, we will be haunted by the images of what everyone else expects us to be. In myself, I would be frozen with indecision, unable to take the next step of my life off this campus and into the wider world.
But Jesus changes everything. Guys, he is everything. Jesus allows us to love because he loves us first. Jesus makes us co-heirs to an amazing inheritance of creativity, renewal, forgiveness, and hope. Our identity is bound up with Jesus – our GPAs, our reputations, our majors, and our careers are only secondary to our primary identity as children of God, fully forgiven and deeply loved. When our friends slight us, it is Jesus, who endured insults and afflictions, who helps us to forgive. When we have to face a professor, a midterm, broken finances, broken relationships, broken families, it is Jesus who conquered the ultimate enemy of death and the grave who reminds us that we will overcome. When friends go across the ocean, it is Jesus who reminds us that his grace will sustain us, that as his church, we will always be united in one body. When life at Columbia just isn’t all we expected it to be, when we just want there to be more, it is Jesus’s invitation to eternal life that reminds us that there is so much more to come. I wish I had known this from the very beginning. Even now, I realize how little I live my life in light of these truths. I could say more, but this is already too long, so I’ll just say again – Jesus is everything. His perfect love covers a multitude of sins. Look to him.
P.S. Also pray. Pray pray pray pray pray pray pray. The ministries on this campus would not exist without prayer. The Christian community cannot stay united without prayer. Pray as if you were the only one praying for your little corner of campus (Schapiro 14, Voice Acting Club, your fraternity, whatever), and invite other people to pray with you. Pray pray pray pray pray *steps off soap box*.
Thank you to all of our writers for this year of hard work, and the love you have shown for God, and for Crown & Cross. To our readers, thank you for your readership and your support throughout this year. And finally, to our seniors, thank you for the past four years of dedication and love you have shown at Columbia. Wherever you go remember that God is constant, never changing, and forever loving. Philippians 4:6-7, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
In His Joy,