As a senior reflecting back on my four years at Barn-umbia, I wondered how I could best approach a reflection on my time here. Just from my experiences with Columbia Faith and Action there are many ways I could have approached it, and many ways I could have anchored my experience. As someone who was not familiar with the Bible before coming to college, I think one way to anchor my experience is in showcasing my growth from reading the Bible throughout these four years, and the deepening of my faith in Christ.
My Junior year I learned in the book of Hebrews not be fearful because of, and in spite of, my faith. I learned to embrace my faith and let it embolden me to live fearlessly. To think that it is “a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” is not how I want to live as a Christian. I want to approach God and give Him my all, as opposed to living in paralyzing fear and insecurity. Hebrews tells us that because of the faith that we have in God through Jesus Christ as our entry point to Him, we are “not those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.” 1 With uncertainty about faith comes fear, and I have been tempted to shrink back and recede into the caverns in which I hide my sins. I want my faith, instead of other things, to be my protection and make me resilient during hard times. Through faith, I grow “sure of what [I] hope for and certain of what [I] do not see.” 2 Hebrews has also instructed me to be sure of what I believe in, and reminded me that by having faith I will gain more certainty about what I believe in other aspects of my life. I have also become more comfortable with not knowing things, such as explanations for the natural world. Faith helps me accept what I don’t know, which is–even after four years of Columbia–a whole lot. Faith has also given me the ability to rest comfortably with that fact, and to not be anxious and uneasy.
Hebrews, written by an unknown source, has a level of mystery and sincerity, asking us to view “hardship as discipline” to help us deal with our modern context for failure. However, the author of Hebrews reminds us of the purpose of hardship, which is to discipline our hearts and minds–the Lord’s ultimate purpose–and thus we should view failure as a period when God is intervening in our lives to provide us with much needed discipline in our actions. Discipline is an opportunity to grow closer to God.
In Acts, I learned about Paul an example of a sinner like us–living through it but becoming wholeheartedly devoted to God. We can learn from Paul’s example of being confident about professing our faith. To me, Paul’s faith is an amazing testament to the changes God has had over my heart and has rescued me from living a perpetually sinful life as I had been before coming to college. In finding a community with which I could further explore what knowing what a joy knowing Jesus is, I wanted to represent Him and the change he has stirred in me. By the Lord telling Paul that he must “take courage as you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome” reveals His intentions to give us courage. 3
The Holy Spirit allows us to know that “God’s salvation has been sent.” 4 Therefore, having reassurance from the Holy Spirit assures us that we are on a path that could only please us if it aligns with His. The end of Acts describes actions that call Christ’s’ children to act “boldly and without hindrance.” 5 The descriptions that God calls us to fill, “boldly” and “without hindrance,” serve as a reminder that God frees us from our chains and empowers us in any and all imaginable ways.
We all have things that still scare us–even after having gone through the otherworldly challenging experiences at Columbia. However, the real world–I can only imagine and soon will realize–has another host of challenges that I will not be ready for. Does that mean that I will live in fear until I enter the real world, and then enter that world and be fearful of what I do not yet know? Of course not! God does not want us to live in perpetual fear. Instead, He wants us to be freed from fear through our faith in Him. This faith should not only be supplementary to other sources of worldly certainty, but also be sufficient even when we don’t receive worldly recognition.
Additionally, God wants us to go out into the world courageously and make others aware of the good news, even if we are not getting the kind of recognition we deserve. God wants us to serve Him in the most unlikely of places, where no one but God is able to provide for us in moments when we are privileged enough to explore the world for work, recreation, or other projects. He calls us to go to different corners of the globe to spread the good news, and to take advantage of those opportunities. Take the command Jesus gave Paul during his tour of ancient Mediterranean cities in which he preached God’s word. Christ urges, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” 6 Just as God has given us the opportunity to be the salt and light on this campus, so too he wants us to do it wherever we are- whether it’s in a buzzing city where we might get more attention, a rural village in our home countries, or somewhere in between. Columbia is only one stop in our journey of sharing God’s word.
Picture yourself in the mountains of Northern Morocco. You are on a bumpy, rocky road on the way to visit a hidden waterfall. You are in a car with a native Moroccan, and for a while you are silently listening to the sound of the tires hitting the rocks beneath, rustling, making conversation almost impossible. However, once you get used to the noise it shifts to the background, and you are left with a clear mind. A few minutes into the ride the taxi driver starts singing the Quran–not just reciting, but singing–a way of sharing the word of God with his little son who was in the taxi as well. My boyfriend, Juan, was in this situation. Sitting in that taxi, he listened attentively to the man singing and felt moved by his pleasant voice and emphatic intonation. After singing, the man inquired about his passengers. The native Moroccan naturally bonded with the driver, given his light attitude, sense of humor, and (as he would learn) his faith. However, Juan, visibly different, the foreigner, shared that he had loved the prayer but that he himself prayed to Jesus Christ. The driver pondered these words for a little bit and then asked in a friendly manner, “May I share with you the story of the birth of Jesus from the Quran?” His answer, of course, was an enthusiastic “yes!” They sat through a ride in the mountains of Morocco having a cross-cultural exchange about their distinct faiths brought together through the story of Jesus Christ.
An opportunity for faith can come in the most unexpected places with the most unexpected company. God intervened and created an opportunity to share in His Presence to bridge their worldly differences, allowing them to talk about Him in the middle of nowhere. God has the power to make palpable the beauty of the experiences only He can make possible.
Only through courage was I able to bring myself to finally let go of the chains that kept me from studying the Bible before coming to Columbia. Taking this initiative has changed my life and given me an education rooted in faith through His word, prayer, and a community of faithful mentors,brothers, and sisters. All of this helped me redefine courage and challenged me to consider a reality where I did not live in perpetual fear of uncertainty and failure. Only God–not Columbia, New York, or even the amazing opportunities this place has offered–has fostered the complete and permanent courage that has been necessary to thrive.
Photo: Alexa Arboleda