God’s Grace in the Face of Failure: Perspectives on Exodus 90 and Genesis 90

Why would anyone choose to give up the daily comforts of an American college student? Over 200 Hope College students are finding out as they embark on their Exodus 90 and Genesis 90 journeys this spring.

In the last few years, the Christian sphere has been influenced by the creation of the Exodus 90 challenge. Though it began as a seminary formation program, it quickly expanded to lay people throughout the country. Exodus 90 is a program based on prayer, sacrifice and community that is designed to deepen the spiritual lives of its participants. Some of the disciplines include daily prayer, cold showers, regular sleep (at least 7 hours per night) and abstinence from alcohol, desserts, television, and more.

On Hope’s campus, the program covers Lent and much of the Easter Season. Lent, a 40 day period of preparation for Easter, mimics the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert, as told in the Bible. Following this example, Christians often prepare for Easter through fasting, acts of charity or almsgiving and prayer.

The rigorous challenge made its way to Hope College 6 years ago, in the spring of 2018. Fr. Nicholas Monco, chaplain of the St. Benedict Institute, had heard of Exodus 90 that winter and thought Hope students might benefit from it. Each year looks a little different as continuous efforts are made to improve the program and make it feasible for the busy college student. In the past, both men and women at Hope participated in the Exodus 90 program. In recent years, Genesis 90 has been introduced as a program specifically for women, and this is the program’s first year being student-led. Though the disciplines differ slightly between the men and women’s programs, all are committed to 20 minutes of daily prayer, regular sleep and exercise, as well as abstinence from desserts, snacking, and social media, among other similarities. 6 years ago, 39 students signed up for Exodus 90. Now with 13 men’s groups and 9 women’s groups, there are over 200 students participating.

For Fr. Nick, the most rewarding part is “seeing what the Holy Spirit is doing in the students and how they respond.” He believes the program is appealing because “people who have done it before have found something valuable in it.” Students often choose to join because of their friends, and through the challenge, they build community with others.

Student perspectives reveal the underlying reason for the growing participation in Exodus 90 and Genesis 90. Ellie Bonnani (‘26) states, “For me the most difficult part of Genesis has been getting enough sleep. As a college student, there is a never-ending to-do list, and it can be hard to cut yourself off from work.” However, she adds, “The best discipline has definitely been prayer, and cutting out social media opens so much space in your life to communicate with Jesus.”

Senior Jessie Schamanek (‘24) first joined Genesis 90 in her sophomore year. She explains that at that time “I was really struggling in my faith and with depression. I went into it thinking ‘I really hope this takes away any distractions in my life.’” After the program, she realized “God used it to reveal Himself to me in a different way. Taking away social media and sweets was something that I had really gone to for comfort during a season of depression, but I would always feel guilty after. Having the program helped me give that up for God, but not in an unhealthy way. It took away all these earthly comforts and helped me have a simpler life, ask questions and find comfort in God again.” She reflects that God used that season of her to draw her back to Him, but also adds that Exodus 90 is not a cure-all and that it is important to seek help when we need it.

Anyone who undertakes a program like Exodus 90 or Genesis 90 has to walk a careful line between treating mistakes too lightly or too seriously. Schamanek tries to avoid these extremes by not comparing her progress to others in her group and by journaling what she is grateful for. “That helped me keep my mind set on God and helped me focus on how He gives us life and provides for us.” When frustrated by mistakes, “I would try to reflect on why I was feeling that way and if I was only trying to check a box for that discipline.” For Schamanek, it was essential to “learn to accept God’s grace when I fail.”

Exodus 90 provides the opportunity for students to simplify and reorder their lives, but it is not the only way to do so. Everyone can benefit from getting rid of distractions in order to identify what matters most to them, because ultimately the way we choose to spend our time reflects what we place the most importance on. What are you giving your time to?

'God’s Grace in the Face of Failure: Perspectives on Exodus 90 and Genesis 90' has no comments

Be the first to comment this post!

Would you like to share your thoughts?

Your email address will not be published.