Hey Mom! The World Is Ending Tomorrow! Does That Mean That I Have To Do My Homework?

So, initially I planned to post this prior to the so-called predicted “end of the world” rapture of this past weekend, but obviously, the rapture didn’t happen, as I haven’t discovered any of my friends or family missing.

However, in the spirit of good fun and Christian political correctness, I thought I should still discuss what the “rapture” deal is all about. In its most basic form, the rapture as most know it is a matter of Christian eschatology (or the study of “end-times”). The term, “rapture” comes from a passage in 1 Thessalonians 4.

For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore, encourage one another with these words.” 

-1 Thessalonians 4:15-18

In other words, the rapture idea comes from the idea that we are made alive in Christ, and those who have died but who were with Christ before death will too be with Him in heaven. (During this period in history, death was thought to be the direct result of a sinful existence; those who experienced death weren’t able to live according to God’s commandments properly, thereby taking death as the ultimate punishment. The idea that Christ could not only overcome death, but do the same for His followers was a radical idea, especially for those who were under the impression that death was the result of evil thoughts and actions.) Ultimately, it is the phrase, “then we who are alive, will be caught up in the clouds together…to meet the Lord in the air” that is the basis for the rapture theory. It is the fact that those who have remained faithful to God by keeping His teachings and honoring His word will be brought into heaven when the hour of Jesus’ return arrives.

Another prominent dispute between Christian groups is whether or not the rapture will occur in one or two events. For example, most Evangelical Christians seem to believe that there will be two distinct events involved in the rapture. The first event is when the faithful Christians will ascend to heaven to be with God and Jesus. This is best described in Matthew 24:29-31, which describes two distinct events separated by more than a brief intermission between the two.

“[Title Heading: The Coming of the Son of Man, aka Jesus] Immediately after the suffering of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see “the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven” with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one heaven to the other.”

-Matthew 24:29-31

The first – the rapture – is when Jesus returns for the faithful, and the second – the second coming – is when Jesus returns, marking the end of the armageddon. The time in between these two events is the key period – this is the moment when those who were not saved (aka accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and were baptized to seal the deal) are left to “repent” and ponder the state of matters; it is during this time that they are “given” the opportunity to accept Jesus, be baptized, and prove to God that  they have accepted Him and all that goes with a belief in Him. They will have to live until the second coming of Jesus, when they will be evaluated and either brought up to heaven to join the faithful who were brought up during the rapture, or sent down to Hell.

On the other hand are the “amillennialists” (like myself, the Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, etc.), who believe that unlike the Evangelical Christians, there is only one event, not two, that signifies the end times. Further, their theology indicates that the rapture theology of the Evangelical Christians is more metaphorical/figurative than literal. More specifically, the amillennialists directly reject the theory that Jesus Christ will have a thousand-year long physical reign on earth. Further, the Kingdom of God will not be physically established on earth during this thousand-year period. Instead, Jesus will not come back to establish a church, but rather the church has been established already (through the death and resurrection of Jesus), and that Jesus will remain beside God the Father, while guiding and tending to the flock (aka myself, and others).

Do I fully understand this concept? HECK NO! Do I fully believe in the two event “rapture then second coming” theory? HECK NO! I think personally, I fall into the amillennialists” category, simply due to the fact that this is the message my church preaches and has preached my entire life. It also appears that the division between the two schools of thought occurs in old- versus new-school churches/denominations. In other words, it appears that the churches that were founded based upon traditional theology of Old school Europe (aka the mainline denominations + catholicism, eastern orthodox, etc.) are on one side, while the newer, American-based churches are on the other (aka non-denominational, Evangelical, pentacostal, etc.). While obviously I can’t make any statements as to why this is so, I wonder whether it has anything to do with how each views the interpretation of the Bible – literal, or otherwise. One one side are those who believe that the Bible is literally the Word of God, and it must be followed to the letter, each and every letter. While on the other side, there are those who believe that the Bible is the Word of God, but it was written during a very specific period in time, and thus should be read with a grain of salt. In other words, the Bible is to be taken seriously, but not necessarily interpreted in a literal fashion. Whether or not this has any correlation to the one or two event end-times theory is not a matter that I can decide upon personally, but it is interesting that the correlations exist between the two arguments.

Obviously, we are all still here, and have not yet reached the “end-times.” Are the end-times a-comin’? Well, that’s not mine to say, I’m not God, nor do I want to be. Do I believe that there are end-times and they are on the horizon? No, I’m not sure that I do, and to be brutally honest, I don’t want to be around when they do happen. In fact, when people started talking about the rapture a few weeks ago, I was a little scared, and not for any particularly important reasons. What went through my head was, “but I won’t get to have a wedding, have children, lead a congregation, let alone drive my new car.” Stupid, huh? But those are my reality at the moment, those are the things I have just started to get excited about. So no, I don’t believe in the rapture, and I’m not that sure that I believe in the end-times. Does this make me foolish? Not sure. I think I need more explanation than what I have been given thus far.

Do I think we are in the end times? Not sure. I think I need more evidence – not the words of self-proclaimed preachers and prophets, and televangelists, but the words of educated theologians and experienced ministers, people who have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of rational belief, not irrational propaganda. But I feel assured that since I am going to seminary, I will have ample opportunity to explore this and other topics that will arise in the coming years. Only time and experience will tell, but I can’t wait to see myself after I figure all this out.

Suggested Reading Lists as First Steps Into The Nearly-Immediate Future Ahead

So last night, I got my Princeton Theological Seminary suggested reading list. Anyone who knows me knows that for as long as I have been able to read, I have always carried a book with me everywhere I go, even to the kitchen to wash my dishes. So to get a reading list from PTS is a HUGE HUGE HUGE thing. Reading the titles of the books on the list felt as though I had discovered the first step toward Princeton. Yeah, I know this is the reading list for the fall, not for my Greek class in July, but still. It felt like I’d conquered the first level of the game that is my summer. (The summer separates me from my exciting beginning at PTS.)

But why geek out at the sight of a reading list in the first place? It is something so small and even insignificant in the grand scheme of things – why waste my time and energy focusing on a simple little reading list? For many, especially those like me who just celebrated the graduation from school – and for most, this is their last “forced” educational experience – the idea of another list of books that have to be read is a frightening prospect. However, for me – being the Christian nerd that I am – a list sent to me by PTS is the highlight of my week. (with my new Guitar Hero 5 kit coming in at a close second…yes, really, I am a nerd!) A reading list is the first step toward a new life, or rather, the beginning of my adult life.

I remember when I received the “reading list” from Smith – the email stating that our incoming class in the Fall of 2007 would be reading “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi. For those of you who haven’t read this series of graphic novels, DO IT! For those of you that have, GREAT JOB! At first blush, I remember asking myself (and the Smith deans in the process…) why we were reading a book about war, violence, suffering? Why couldn’t we read a book that would prepare us for our time at a women’s college, let alone college in the first place? Why couldn’t we read a happy book or something inspirational? But obviously, hindsight is 20/20, and it is only now that I am able to see the lessons learned from that book, and the impact they have had on my life. Obviously, I can’t say that “Persepolis” was a text that I was able to relate to, because I have never been personally impacted by an internal conflict or revolution, but I am now able to see Smith’s motivation behind assigning that book in the first place.

Our generation is one that has seen many things – the first attack on our soil in exactly 60 years (9/11), the beginning of a war in Afghanistan (2002) and then Iraq (2003), and all the different movements that followed – the attempt at establishing a democracy in the wake of a dictatorship, women’s reproductive rights, gay rights, church vs. state questions, the first Black president, just to name a few. While our country was not the subject of a modern-day revolution like Iran and the characters of Satrapi’s graphic novel, the United States has undergone countless significant changes as a result of the passage of time and the occurrence of several dramatic events. We are the catalysts for change – that is what the graphic novels spell out. While there is much outside of our control, while we cannot just call up President Obama and say, “whattup Mr. Prez, I’ve got a few things that I’d like to say…,” there is a lot that we as young women (and men) can do to impact, improve and inspire our futures.

So what does this have to do with the reading list that came from PTS anyway? I think it has everything to do with my experiences with Smith’s assigned summer reading. That reading taught us lessons about how to inflict positive changes in our environment in every way that we can. I can’t state as of now whether or not the reading list from PTS will do the same, but an inkling inside of me thinks that what I learn from those books will influence me much in the same way that Smith intended for “Persepolis.” The reading lists – like the one from both Smith and PTS – are designed to help us as incoming students understand the path we are on, and also what little facts we can glean about the future. Obviously, we are not fortune-tellers or psychics, and thereby cannot foresee the future. But what I can say is that these texts are intended to teach me something about what my future holds; and further, they are there to allow me to peer into what the life of a seminary student will be like.

I know that the next three years will be challenging, but I think for the first time in my life, this challenge won’t be all about the academic rigors of an institution such as Princeton. Rather, the challenges will come from God and also from the unpacking of my beliefs and faith, one piece at a time, and the subsequent rebuilding and reconstructing of these beliefs into a bigger and stronger minister. For the first time in my life, I will have the opportunity to unpack my faith, examining in depth why I believe what I do, and then have the ability to build a stronger and faith-filled minister.

Now what does one make of that? That is some food for thought, without a doubt!

Commencement: An Actual, not Hypothetical Reality Anymore

So, obviously, I’m now a Smith alum, no longer a Smith student. My commencement (from Smith into the graduate school/real world) is no longer a hypothetical situation I discussed until I went blue in the face with other exiting seniors, but now is a harsh reality I must stare in the face for the next seven weeks. Granted, in some ways, I was thrust into the real world a bit earlier than most this year when I was accepted to seminary, but at the same time, I was pulled away from it as well. Because I am going to seminary in seven weeks, I feel as though I am toeing the line between two entirely opposing worlds. One one side is the Liz who is a recent (very recent, in fact) college grad, and has to figure out where I belong in this world, and how I will choose to impact and be impacted by it. But on the other is the Liz who is unlike most of her recent college-graduated classmates (who are entering the real world either employed or otherwise) – she is going to continue her studies. This Liz feels the progress she is making with her life by taking the next step toward the career she hopes to have in the future, but at the same time, wonders whether or not she is simply living in a state of stasis, with no steps backward, but only baby steps forward. Obviously, this is not the truth, nor the reality I’m facing at the moment. I know that seminary is not stasis, not glue on the bottom of my shoes that want to move toward future progress. It is the shoes, the motivation, everything I need to be the minister that I dream of.

This weekend was an extremely special moment for both myself and my family. Everyone always has told me that Ivy Day and Commencement are two absolutely beautiful ceremonies, but it wasn’t until I was actually a part of them – and my life was being changed drastically by them – that I understood what past graduates meant when they told me that. Ivy Day (aka Saturday am…) was the true beginning of the end. I’m not the “public display of emotion” type by any means, but I can understand why many of my fellow Smithies were choked up by the whole experience. Here we were, sitting in the quad, listening to various trustees and important women telling us that we are soon going to be a part of a special crowd, a cherished family, ad finitem. Women were standing in front of the podium, telling us that we were strong, empowered women, capable of anything we set our minds to. But it didn’t hit me that we were so “special” until they announced the different awards, honors and prizes. I remember leaning over to my friend next to me and saying, “my mom always told me I was ‘special.’” Well…at Smith, everyone’s mothers told them that they were special, perfect, etc. The moral of the story: we’re all special and good at something, and it is just about finding what you are good at and doing that with your whole heart.

Commencement was an entirely different matter. Saturday night/Sunday morning was spent rescuing the precious “M” and restoring it to its virgin beauty with some of my favorite Smithies. During this time (which had been prefaced with a wee bit of wine and a few margaritas…), we were able to bond together to make the last few hours at Smith special and a time to remember. Our “M” had been stolen by some visiting 2001 reunion alums, who had been holding it hostage and giving us clues as to its whereabouts via twitter. I’m not going to bother discussing why or how any of this happened, because that is beyond me and a waste of my breath. But myself and three other Morrisites were able to rescue the “M” from Carol Christ’s doorstep at 12:30 Sunday am and bring it home. While this whole fiasco shouldn’t have happened in the first place, the fact that it did served to bring us together even further in our last few hours of college. We bonded over calling public safety, and then by painting over the names of the alums who stole it (yeah, they were stupid enough to write their names on it i the first place), and the expletives they marked it with. I know that I have forged friendships that can withstand the tests and trials that distance and a lack of contact can impress upon us. I know that with some effort, we can have our own reunions and girls’ weekends, despite how far apart we are.

As I walked across the stage in the ITT, shook Carol Christ’s hand and took the diploma of one of my classmates (yeah, Smith does things the less-than-easy-way as frequently as possible…), I felt proud, nervous, excited, worried, frightened and empowered all at the same time. I wish that I could say that I felt different, or changed, because I think that would be a lie. I know that sometime in the future I will feel different, changed by the experiences I had while at Smith, but I think it is still far too early to tell what those might be. But I know the change is there, lying somewhere under the surface, inside of me, just screaming, waiting to come out and show who I have become.

Commencement has made my post-grad dreams a reality, whether I was ready for it or not. I have been saying over the past year that I was so ready for college to be over, and was in fact still saying that up until a few days before the day came when it would come to an end. But in the end, I’m not entirely sure how ready I was to be finished with college. Or perhaps, I’m not sure that I was ready to leave my friends. You all know who you are, and there are so many of you who were special, and instrumental in helping me become the person that I am today.

So, what is ahead of me now? Seven weeks at home, whatever that means, and then I finally get to move down to New Jersey to begin the rest of my life. I feel extremely thankful that I have a plan, somewhere to go. It gives me purpose, something to look forward to during my time here at home. But in the meantime, there will be lots of studying, reading, and thinking before I will feel even remotely prepared to enter seminary.

Transitions? Revolution? A Spiritual (not Religious) Baccalaureate Service at Smith College

I have been appointed to help put together this year’s Smith College Baccalaureate; while I feel immense joy at being thought of for such an honor,at the same time, I wonder quite a lot about the intentions of my fellow committee members. We had a lunch meeting this afternoon to plan how exactly we wanted our baccalaureate to look – what we wanted to say. Out of the blue, the decided theme was “Transitions” and “revolution.” While both decidedly cliche, each member of the committee seemed particularly attached to the idea that we are in a transitional time, or perhaps that we have undergone countless transitions during our time at Smith, and now was the perfect time to discuss them with everyone. (Not that we don’t do that enough at Smith to begin with…) The ladies seemed especially connected to this topic, and tried to do everything they could to give the audience (fellow seniors) the opportunity to voice and share their transitions – either good or bad – with the rest in attendance. It is not without saying that I am not the first to volunteer my feelings or emotions, I think that this theme in particular serves a few purposes for the committee. It allows them to think aloud about their experiences at Smith, the people they befriended, and the professors they looked up to.

But as far as I am concerned, I feel like the service would be far better if it didn’t focus so heavily upon weepy, overly-sentimental quotes that otherwise have no application to our lives. I think the good intention is there, but do we really notice the transitions and changes that have occurred in us in such a short period of time? I know that certainly I have changed, and who I was when I came to Smith isn’t necessarily who I am now, but only in the future will I see the full extent to which I have changed. It is because of this that I see the theme as naive, or rather overzealous. Why is it necessary to sit around and “mourn” the loss of our college years? Or is it supposed to be a celebration of the people we are to be in the future, rather than the intense focus on who we have become during our time in college? Why the sudden and hurried focus on who we have become? Isn’t it more important to think about who we wish to become in the future? After all, we are going to be adults far longer than we will ever be college students; why not spend our few remaining days thinking about how we can use our Smith education to change the world, or at least the environments we exist in?

I guess to some extent, it is easier to think about who we have become, rather than to take the risky leap into the future to think about who we will become. Perhaps it is far more simple to think about what has happened, rather than to think about the uncertain future that lays before many graduating college seniors. And for some, the concept of transitions is something that is far easier to contemplate than the idea that to some extent, their future is bright, but foggy at the moment. The fear of the unknown that lies ahead for some is without a doubt and rightfully so, a frustrating and easily upsetting prospect. I obviously can’t speak to how this might feel, and I won’t begin to even try. But at the same time, I wonder whether or not it is at all therapeutic to discuss a highly sensitive subject in front of a great portion of the class, many of whom are frustrated as is.

Ultimately, I worry that baccalaureate was this mushy, sentimental moment for seniors to “share their feelings” and talk about their “futures.” I don’t want the get together to be seen as a giant therapy session for Smithies who have not taken control of their futures, or at least of their own experiences. I will be the first person to express that it is critically important to process the experiences – both good and bad – that we have had at Smith. But it is also important to compartmentalize those experiences and use what we have to make both our lives and the lives of those we know and love better in the future. Because life isn’t about what we have done over the last four years, but rather about what we will do in the future.

So take up your future, don’t linger too long in the past. Remember who you were at Smith, but more importantly, think and dream about who you will become in the future. As, there is nothing you can do about your past, but to change it in the future. Be your future, however frightening it may be.

My Faith + Your Faith = Our Faith, not NOT MY FAITH

My friend wrote on facebook a few weeks back, “I find few things more annoying than ignorance. Over heard a small group of young adults trash talking about Mormons. Couldn’t help but speak up & kindly suggest they save the ignorance for their home conversations. Just because you’re not of a certain faith doesn’t mean you need to spread hatred toward the people who are of that faith. Time to grow up!” AMEN, brother!

I have encountered in sooo many different settings the mentality that if it isn’t my faith, there isn’t any common ground to stand upon. But what about the idea that we all have things that we value, and just because they may not be identical to my belief, they still have value to someone else? I have constantly preached (and perhaps over-preached) the gospel of acceptance and standing on common ground, rather than just your ground. But why is it so challenging for people to understand that faith is something that brings people together, not pulls people apart?

Last week, I met some new friends through the dean of Religious life at Smith. This couple are both Princeton alums (although the wife confesses that she didn’t get her M.Div, she got her M.R.S degree. Who cares, in my opinion, she worked for it…the rest is just in the details…), and they remind me a lot of my maternal grandparents. I had known them all of an hour before they were inviting me over, asking to take me to church, and offering me rides places. But what struck me most is how when we were leaving, they both offered me the biggest hugs – the kind of hugs only grandparents give their grandchildren. For them, it didn’t matter that I wasn’t Presbyterian (although I think they’re still secretly hoping that I’ll give up my RCA dreams and switch my ordination commitments to PC(USA)…dream on!), they saw another child of God, and that was more than enough. They loved me because I loved them, and I loved what they held close to their hearts. The specifics are less important than the general understanding we share.

I wish that such a passion, such a deep and pure love that God and Jesus have for us, could exist between people of different faiths, or even people of the same faiths. Should it really matter that my faith is different from that of the Fishers (at times, not always), or that my faith is different from that of my Jewish or Muslim friends? In a perfect world, no; in such a perfect world, people would recognize that faith and belief – regardless of what differences may arise – should serve to unite people, should serve as the catalyst for the formation of a beautiful (and diverse) community of spiritual people. This group would not be a place to distinguish “believers” from “non-believers” but rather would unite those with “beliefs” of all sorts. It would seek to find a common ground for all to stand on equally, creating not a hierarchy for some to be more powerful or stronger than others, but rather a home for all to share equally, loving others, not finding arbitrary reasons to hate.

My faith + Your Faith = Our faith, even though we may believe slightly different things. The important part is not “my” or “your” but the word faith. It is spelled the same way whether it refers to being a Christian, a Jew or a Muslim. Each of us has faith, and that is far more important than the details. So lets drop the hate for those that don’t believe what we do. Lets stop wasting our time, energy and emotions on finding what pulls us apart, when trying to find what unites us is so much more productive and less exhausting. I think that the time and effort is spent finding what makes us unique and distinctive is far more satisfying for some than finding what could bring people together. Why worry so much about what makes us different, why search for things that make us different when there is so much that should serve to bring us together? The world is such a mess and so many are torn apart from their brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers – we should be looking for reasons to come together in times of strife and suffering, to bring about peace and understanding through unity, not through differences. Let us not create divides among us, but rather let us mend the rifts that have formed in the past.

Because in the end, when all the mess and clutter dissipates, my faith + your faith = our faith. Period.

Reality – Too Real to Be Really Real

Last week, I said goodbye to my favorite college professor. Ordinarily, either I’m too excited to say goodbye, or I approach the whole interaction as a “see you later.” I guess I always try to approach farewells as temporary, but this goodbye for one reason or another seems far more permanent. I have said on more than one occasion that I would not miss anything at Smith, or rather that I am not particularly sentimental about my time at Smith. But now that goodbyes are being said and gifts exchanged, I feel like the things that I thought I would be applauding to be eliminated from my life are things that I will miss most about my time in college.

His classes have been the most challenging I’ve faced, and he’s pushed me more than any other professor at Smith. I’m not sure why I will miss him so much – I think it is more that my life will be anything but predictable the way it was here at Smith next year.

It makes it even harder to leave his classes, seeing as he recommended me for a fellowship next year, and I ACTUALLY GOT IT! Who would have known? I’m the type of student (and the type of person) that flies quietly under the radar, doing well academically, even to the point of being the top of the class, but ultimately doesn’t call too much attention to my gifts and skills. To be recognized for all the hard work that I have put into my studies, to be called out in front of my nearly 700 classmates for my academic achievements flies in the face of my introverted personality. It says, “you don’t have to be a “that girl” or the loud-mouthed, outspoken Smithie to succeed and be recognized for your accomplishments.” I applied for the scholarship with the understanding that I wouldn’t be chosen. But I knew that I wouldn’t be given the chance to win the money and prestige if I didn’t try in the first place.

Ultimately, the important part is not that I won the money or the recognition, but rather that I applied and fought to be recognized in the first place. Four years ago, I was the quiet, shy kid who diffused my insecurities with humor. By making others laugh, I felt that not only did people see me, but they wouldn’t see my insecurities, my frustrations, what have you. But now, I don’t need the validation or recognition of others the way that some of my classmates seem to desire so desperately. Do I still enjoy being commended? HECK YEAH! Everyone likes to receive complements and encouragements, but will I melt down if I don’t receive the necessary amount? HECK NO. I feel validated when I do well in a class, or when I master a difficult subject. For me, my success makes me happy, my endurance makes me happy. Not the validation that comes as a result of my success.

It feels so nice to be recognized by my professors for all the hard work I have put in over the past four years. It feels incredible to be recognized in front of my entire class, alums, parents, professors, for what I have done. I don’t need it, but it makes me feel EPIC! Especially when I have been overlooked or forgotten at times by professors because I’m not the first to volunteer my feelings or opinions about a given topic. This is not to say, however, that I have missed out on opportunities. Rather, I don’t have the desire to voice my opinions and concerns about every topic that comes up for discussion in a class. Rather, I save my words for when I feel they are going to be heard and received most. It is not important for me to speak in class for the sake of speaking. I feel that my voice is valuable, but shouldn’t be abused. My power to speak – to voice my opinion – shouldn’t be over-exercised, to the point that no one respects what I say anymore. I prefer to talk about something when I have a put together point available.

This fellowship also serves another purpose – it seems to validate my path, my goal for my life. With this fellowship comes $6000, which God knows I could use to put toward next year’s tuition. While the money is really important and instrumental in my going to seminary this summer, having the money come from where it did and when was just the support and sign that I needed. I know deep down in my heart and soul that I am doing what God intended for me to do, but this just serves as another sign, another source of validation that I am headed in the right direction, that I am listening to God. That I am following God.

I am aware of how much I have changed over the last four years, but the fact that I was awarded this fellowship (and the money…that’s huge too) speaks volumes regarding these changes. Four years ago, I wouldn’t have bothered to apply because I worried that I wouldn’t get it, and didn’t want to face the resulting rejection. But now, I am strong enough to take anything that comes at me, and am strong enough to continue when the cards dealt are not in my favor. But fortunately, this time, the cards were for me. I won this time!

Missing Smith and Having Tough Faith Conversations

Everything is coming so fast. For the longest time, I thought that I could be so excited to bid my time at Smith adieu, but now that it is actually happening, I’m a bit frightened. Not so much afraid of the future, but rather that the time that I have been wishing away slightly over the last 18 months is actually ending. I always knew that college would come to an end, but I didn’t think I would have feelings about it. I am not the type that will come back to Smith for my 10, 20, 30 year reunions, that’s just not my style; I probably won’t be involved with a Smith club or raise money for my class. Not because I’m not grateful for everything that my Smith education has gotten me thus far, but because Smith was a stopping ground for me – a stepping stone I could perch on on my way to seminary.

But never did I imagine that I would actually begin to miss the place. Over the last 4 years, I have run along the mill river on both of the cross country paths. Yesterday, I was walking on the path by Paradise Pond on the first of what would prove to be a week’s worth of spring days, and it hit me that the number of times I could walk along this path was slowly ticking down. I knew that my time at Smith would eventually come to an end, and for more than a year, my sights were focused on what I would do after my time at Smith, not so much on what I was doing at the current time. Now that I have plans for the next three years, it gives me ample time to think about the time I have left at Smith.

Now that I know what is going on with my life, I can sit back and think about all that I have done at Smith, and specifically, all the things that I will most certainly miss when I graduate in a few weeks. A friend of mine recommended that I make a list of the things that I really want to do before I graduate, and I think that is probably the best thing I could do.

  1. Run the Mill River path at least once more, but hopefully at least 4 times over senior week
  2. Ride the Bike path to Amherst once – this will probably only happen once, as who knows when I will be able to ride, and also who knows when my bike will go home?
  3. Ride route 66 once more
  4. Watch the sun set over paradise pond on the dock at the boathouse
  5. Take photos of campus, being as creative as possible, trying to capture as many aspects of the campus as possible
  6. Go on at least one more sunrise and sunset run each

**Is it sad that many of the things I’m going to miss have to do with exercising? I feel like much of the bonds that I have formed physically with Smith have to do with being outside and active? Or rather am I just more connected to the physical aspects of Smith than say, the people?

Hmm…interesting thought. As with everything in life, there are parts of my Smith experience that I will miss, and then also parts that I won’t miss as well. The parts that I will miss most are the people here that I consider a part of my family. You all know who you are! But I think something I will miss more at times than anything are the professors who have helped me to get to where I am today, and more importantly, where I will be going “tomorrow.” In high school, I had teachers who cared about my academic well-being, but beyond that, they were limited in their ability to care about my life goals and dreams. But here at Smith and also at Amherst (and I would imagine the same would be true at other schools like Smith…), a few of my professors took interest in me beyond simply the classes I was taking. They were willing to do everything they could to help me make my dreams come true.

What am I going to miss most about Smith? I think it is less what I am going to miss and more what I wish I could have accomplished during my time here. I have no regrets academically, nothing that I wanted to do in terms of classes, but I wish that I could have spent more time developing relationships with people of different faiths and different belief systems. I was discussing with a friend yesterday how at times religious relationships can be tense on campus. It isn’t often between the various religious groups that tension occurs, but rather between the religious and “non-religious.” As someone who is a part of a faith system, or rather as a person who ascribes to a particular faith, I can understand how one side of fence feels, but I think it is important to have valid discussions coming from both sides not just one side (with the other side not listening, or not being given the opportunity to listen and be heard…).If I had more time at Smith, I would try to start those discussions, or I would at least find a place for interfaith discussions to happen. I have my beliefs, and the faith that I hold near and dear to my heart, and those will never falter or be given up, but I think it is important for everyone’s faith voice to be heard. Just because people may not agree with me, or they may have differing opinions, doesn’t mean that their voice isn’t important to me, or others. But that fact is often ignored, because to face a different opinion or belief is frightening, or threatening to their own beliefs.

But why is this important, anyway? I have discussed in past blog posts how important it is to learn from the faith of others. But people find other differing opinions frightening, or even threatening to their beliefs. The most common explanation I have heard is, “well, I don’t want to hear what they have to believe because it is a threat to my beliefs.” But isn’t the fact that it is a threat a good thing in some way? I don’t think threats are a bad thing, because by facing the faith of others, it helps us to ask questions and seek for answers within our own faith. I am not faultless in this. At times, I feel so uncomfortable when I am confronted with the faiths of others; It can make a person doubt. But at the same time, it gets me to ask questions and pray harder for the answers to my questions, in the process, strengthening my faith in what I believe. It isn’t a bad thing, despite the fact that it may seem as much.

So what am I going to miss most about Smith? I am going to miss the conversations that are had here, the relationships that are built. I know in the back of my mind that similar discussions will happen at PTS, because everyone that is studying there is an adult and will therefore engage in adult conversations, but Smith is familiar and predictable. Hmmm, I can’t wait to see what types of conversations will happen there. I think it will be, without a doubt, an enlightening experience. I can’t wait to see how my faith will change, develop and grow in those conversations!