If you’re like me, sometimes there’s a war going on in your head. Sometimes your thoughts fit together, and sometimes they don’t. If you’re like me, you might have learned a lot of things since coming to college that have challenged your worldview…which suddenly make you feel like you might not know anything at all. Maybe you have a lot of people in your life pulling you so many different directions and screaming at you so many different “rights” and “wrongs.”Maybe you’re just not sure sometimes.
Or maybe not. Maybe right now you feel sure and passionate, like you’ve finally found your place. That’s awesome. But right now, for me, there are only a few things that I feel very certain of.
When it comes to people and politics and so many other things, I don’t know who to trust. I know that I have ideas that don’t seem to go together —some that I need to unlearn and some that I need a deeper understanding of. I’m just not sure which is which. And that’s okay.
I want to tell you part of my story, because I feel like I’ve been hiding the totality of my identity. I grew up in Wauseon, Ohio, a town right next to a pretty big Mennonite community.
My school didn’t have Mennonites, and my church didn’t really seem Mennonite, but my parents raised me with Mennonite ideals. I began to identify with those ideals in high school, when my friends asked me questions that I didn’t really know how to answer and I had to explore.
At Hesston College, I began to understand and embrace the Menno side of my faith even more. Then, after my Hesston experience, I took a gap year. During my gap year I spent six months in Austin, Texas, with a evangelical Christian organization called Youth With A Mission, or YWAM.
My southern friends had very different beliefs than I did, and I began to truly understand a perspective that had been almost demonized in my mind. I was plugged into a church culture that was evangelical and very different from my roots in some ways. I can’t really describe to you how important this time was in my faith. I felt like a different person at the end of it.
And then I came here. Back to familiar politics – politics that make sense to me. Back to another faith perspective that also makes sense to me, but seems so different from what I learned in Austin.
Here I am, one foot in a Mennonite culture and one foot in my YWAM-Austin-Evangelical culture, and I really don’t fit completely into either of them.
And here is how this became hiding: I have given into the fear of being not-liberal-enough for Goshen College and not-conservative-enough for Texas, or even Northwest Ohio. I have allowed my fear to shut me down during conversations in the Rott, or keep me away from people who I know care about me because I am afraid of being misunderstood or in conflict. But you know what?
Most people don’t have that expectation for me to perfectly match their ideals, an expectation that I feared so much.
And for the ones that do hold this expectation, I will never please them. So I’m done hiding.
I believe our wrestling is important. If we never wrestle, our ideas will never really be our own. We cannot just accept the ideas presented to us as if they are complete and without fault, because no one is perfect.
Goshen College doesn’t have it all right. Mennonites don’t have it all right (gasp!). My friends in Texas don’t have it all right. We simply don’t and frankly can’t ever see everything.
I want to challenge you to know that wrestling is important. It’s easier to just agree with the things our friends, family, profs or the people around us say.
They might communicate their points effectively, convincingly. Maybe they’re true. But maybe they’re not. So let’s be humble enough to not know sometimes, and be passionate anyway. And let’s allow others to do the same.