Thursday, January 14, 2010

In the Refiner's Fire - My College Years and Getting my Faith Solidified

This is part 2 of my faith and health story. To read the first part, go here.

My College Years

Like many young people do, I graduated from High School and went away to college. Only I really went away - three states away to be exact. I chose the school I did for their top quality Physics and Astronomy program and the ability to do actual scientific research as an undergraduate, something that is rather commonplace now, but was rare 15+ years ago. I also knew that if I didn't really leave home, I never would. So I went somewhere I wouldn't be able to go home on weekends.

I attended the campus ministry our church had there. I visited because it was something I was looking for (a faith community to be part of) and I had received an advertising flier telling me about it before I left home (the staff were so pleased that direct mailing worked!). Campus ministry became a huge part of my life. Not only was it my peer group, so to speak, but it was also where I met John and where we had our wedding reception 5 years later (next week is that story!).

John was a peer minister at the campus ministry. I thought he was very handsome and very funny. We started dating a month after I arrived (he was a year ahead of me in school) and he informally asked me to marry him the next month. We told our Pastor. He smiled. That was about it. I think he really didn't think we were that committed, but we were. Again, I'll write more on that next week. :)

I had a lot of really amazing faith experiences there - my faith was shaken, grown, torn down, rebuilt and solidified there. I was amazed at how many Lutherans didn't have a clue about the theological founding of our church (John included). I first read Martin Luther's' works there (the ministry had the entire collection for loan in their library). I first read Here I Stand the biography of Martin Luther there as well. I began to realize that I was well and truly blessed by having the parents I do, who not only gave me a firm Christian upbringing but also the foundations of our faith. There were two things (other than meeting John) that stand out in my mind from this time, at least from a faith stand point:

First, I was able to study the philosophies of the other branches of the Christian church during this time. It solidified once and for all my Lutheran-ness (is that a word?) and the realization that I am a Lutheran Christian, and a rather liberal one at that. The theological beliefs of the other branches of the church don't agree with my personal relationship with God, so here I stand. As a Lutheran.

Second, John and I were taking a course on Roman civilization together to fulfill a general education requirement. There were several memorable things about the course (looong story!) but the one that stands out in my mind, was the last chapter of the book, about Christian Rome and the Holy Roman Empire. It was very clear that the author of the book thought that Christianity was a myth and that Jesus was a political zealot who was a political and historical figure rather than the Son of God. The author had some very not nice things to say about Jesus' actions from a political standpoint.

I was shocked. I hadn't heard anything about this before. It was the first time I had heard some of the arguments about why Christianity is a myth, and truly I was stumped. What if "they" are right? What if Jesus is just some great guy but nothing really special? What if...? Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to go to my Pastor. John went with me - he was angry, I was just dumbfounded.

My Pastor's response? So what. Literally, "So What?" So what if he was a political zealot. So what if he did all these political things. So what... Then he said "Does it change the fact that Jesus died, was buried and rose again three days later? No. That is the point. That Jesus died and rose from the grave to save us from sin. The rest points to that and nothing else."

Um. Duh.

But it was the first time I had experienced that. And it gave me a whole new way of looking at my faith.

Big, important stuff in deed.

This was only part of my college experience, of course. I spent much of my time studying with my Physics cohort and doing research (and publishing 5 papers!). I spent time at conferences. I spent time banging my head against homework problems and roommate issues. I spent a lot of time on and at school.

Still my faith was a big part of this and I came out of college realizing that God and my relationship with Him is the most important thing in my life. It was a time when I started wearing a cross necklace daily. It was time when I got more interested in participating in church activities and having a social circle based on the church/faith rather than on work and social aspects of my life.

Of course one of the biggest things that happened during this time was meeting John and getting engaged. I'll write about that next week.

Was there a time in your life when your faith was shaken and stirred?

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Lea