I headed off to college in the fall of 2005. I was packed and ready to go, in every sense of the word. Even though I had been ready for college since kindergarten, it was still an emotional parting with my family when it was finally time for them to leave me in the state of Minnesota and return to the home state of Washington.
I spent four years of my life at Crown College, a small private Christian school located in St. Bonifacius, Minnesota, a small rural town 45 minutes west of Minneapolis. This is what I told people for four years. During my time there, everything I believed or even thought might be true was thrown into the academic blender of spiritual, physical and intellectual development; and by the time the stuff was poured out into a glass it had all changed color, smell, and consistency.
And this is where part two of my miracle story begins.
Going to a Christian college exposed me to all forms of Christianity. It quite literally changed my world and blew my mind. I already knew there were “crazy” Christians and was aware of the ultra conservative groups, but there were so many more hybrids and and doctrinal leanings that I didn’t really knew what any of this meant for my own faith. And I had been exposed to quite a lot of growing up and considered myself somewhere in the middle, or so I thought. I considered myself rather tolerant though cynical, but everything was still throwing me off.
Thus my suitcase of Christian spirituality became quite meaningless. I, in actuality, had failed to pack EVERYTHING. In fact, that was a quite impossible feat. There seemed to be only one option after I realized this. I emptied the entire suitcase out onto the floor. The days of being a packrat Christian were over. I didn’t even know if I was a Christian anymore!
The examination of what was in my suitcase characterized my 4-year collegiate journey. The contents of the suitcase became cases against Christianity. Contents of the suitcase became shining beacons of truth. But all of it was questioned. I spent a lot of my academic energy debating and arguing everything. My favorite emotion was anger. I was casted as the queen on controversy on campus, and every leadership role I took on just gave me more fodder for my case against the institution.
And of course, I found new experiences, too. Some practices I just went ahead and threw out the window, like praying before every meal and reading my Bible everyday and raising my hands in worship and – for better or for worse – crying. But I did allow myself to attend prayer meetings. They were like experiments for me. I still prayed as well, because somehow the one thing I never doubted was the existence of God; but I questioned all explanations of it.
At some of these prayer meetings (specifically the ones that gathered in the prayer room – this happened every Friday night), I experienced things, spiritual experiences that had been secretly tucked away in my suitcase during high school. I let myself be slain with “holy laughter” one time. (Slain is one of those vocabulary words that I threw out most of the time.) To this day, I’m still not sure if I had any choice in the matter. I remember praying fervent prayers, because I did believe something was there. I hadn’t thrown it all out the window. But as soon as reports of miracles started happening, I pulled back again. It was like I had a whole new suitcase of contents to examine and question.
I learned a lot in college. I poured myself into my studies, established myself as social butterfly, got super involved, and became editor-in-chief of the college newspaper, a post from which I scrutinized and commented on EVERYTHING. It was the perfect outlet, because if there was one thing I knew to be true, it was that all of us needed to think for ourselves.
Life was suddenly and significantly slowed down for me at the end, however. During my last two years of college, I experienced great emotional and physical pain that threw a new flavor onto all of my skepticism. I was now cynical about people. After being significantly hurt by some close friends and tearing my ACL in the same 6 month swoop, the world looked different to this fiery feminist of a college student. Prayer rooms were the last place I wanted to be after tearing my ACL (though I still experimented) and I found myself leaning heavily on my community of friends as my knee was nursed back to health through physical therapy and exercise.
As the day of college graduation drew closer, I found myself itching to flee the life of studies and dormitories and Christian society. I had gained something. It’s called perspective. Perspective has this way of changing your life, and the perspective I had gained taught me that life is largely characterized by people: emotional, weak, and vulnerable homo-sapiens and I was one of them. And all of these people believed something different for a myriad of reasons from culture to social conditioning, and I was more OK with that than ever. And I was going to survive life without these people, these people who had became my family, my friends, and showed me love.
It was time for me to go. It was time for me to enter part three of my story.