John Wesley Honors College

Spring 2014 Alumni Newsletter

Click here for a PDF of the full newsletter: Spring 2014 Alumni Newsletter

Commencement Address

Emily Smith, John Wesley Scholar of the Class of 2014,  was invited to share a charge to the graduating class at April’s commencement ceremony. After graduation, Emily is moving to Nashville, Tennessee, where she will work as a nurse at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Emily Smith, John Wesley Scholar of the Class of 2014, was invited to share a charge to the graduating class at April’s commencement ceremony. After graduation, Emily is moving to Nashville, Tennessee, where she will work as a nurse at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

by Emily Smith, John Wesley Scholar, Class of 2014

The past four years at IWU have allowed us to learn so much and grow in so many ways. They also have given us friendships and memories that we will cherish forever.

Leaving here is going to be hard. But we also can look toward the future with anticipation and excitement.

As we move toward the next stage of our life, whether careers, marriage, grad school, or another exciting opportunity, I would like to remind you of God’s calling on your life. I would like to encourage you that, although your future may seem uncertain or unfamiliar, you can move forward, eager to discover how God is going to fit your skills and longings into his plan for the world.

God has designed us, the human race, to be partners with him as we live in the world. He has given humanity the task of stewarding the earth. This stewardship certainly encompasses taking care of creation, but it is also a broader and more inclusive calling. Since God’s original covenant with Adam, he has been continually at work to restore the brokenness that pervades all areas of life. We are to steward our gifts in ways that allow us to become fully active participants in God’s ongoing process of restoring the world.

We live in the tension between an already victorious Christ and the reality that our world is still fallen. N. T. Wright says that our callings lie in helping God to transform the world as we see it into the coming Kingdom of God. The gospel, the personal knowledge of God with us, gives significance to our life on earth. The gospel is our constant reminder that God has not left the world to its own devices. He is actively at work in the mundane and the
eternal. Through the example of Christ, we learn that our calling is to devote our lives to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of others. We are created and redeemed to help God as he renews the world.

Our calling is broad and exciting and varied because God’s vision for humanity is vast.

As believers, we are designed to partner with God in his plan to restore what is broken in the world. But we also have individual callings which we must live out. We are created in the image of God, which means that each of us has the capacity to live lives of compassion and care and creativity. God has created us to feel deeply and to hold our convictions strongly. Each of us has been given a unique purpose and mission, one that motivates our choices, even if we are unable to articulate what it is that drives us.

C. S. Lewis writes,

“All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it—tantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest—if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say ‘Here at last is the thing I was made for.’”

This thing that we are made for, the personal passion which drives us to study and learn and act, is our God-given means of serving the world. By living out the passion that compels us, we are living out our individual purpose.

God’s will for our lives as believers is that we would learn how to live at the intersection of our passions and his plan for the world. Our futures are filled with promise because we know that God’s plan for us involves the use of our passions to further his kingdom in some way. The knowledge that our calling is to join God on his mission in the world should be freeing and exciting.

We are not facing a future where we have to correctly discern God’s will in each minute decision in order to remain within his plan for us. Instead, we are called to live boldly with the knowledge that God wants to use our gifts and passions to provide glimpses of heaven on earth. We need not live in fear of missing God’s plan. We can freely pursue our passions in the ways that will allow us to most effectively unite what we love to do with God’s desire for his kingdom to come.

For example, my passion is to help people have the resources they need to live productive and satisfied lives. I love the potential every person has, and that love has informed my decision to be a nurse. But the wonderful thing about God’s calling is that it is not restricting. I do not always have to be a nurse to live out this passion. There are countless ways that I can use my interests to join in God’s continued work in the world.

The same holds true for you. Through our time at IWU, we have been given so many opportunities to develop our skills and increase our knowledge. Now is the time when we can take our skills and combine them with our passions to courageously take grace and truth to a world that is longing for good news. If your passion is to create art, then make art that shows that God is still in the process of redeeming our world. If your passion is for people to gain knowledge, then teach with the best of your abilities. But know that you are not limited by your career. You are free to use your gifts in many ways in order to live out your calling.

Because God’s plan is for you to live at the intersection of your passions with his redemptive work in the world.

 

Click here for a PDF of the full newsletter: Spring 2014 Alumni Newsletter

 

References:

N. T. Wright, Simply Jesus (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2011).

C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, (1940).