We are now a few weeks into our Fall semester, and one thing has become abundantly clear to all of us: this is hard! I miss gathering together in person. I miss chapel; I miss sporting events; I miss the Phelps ice cream machine! We have signed up for a difficult semester.
The question is: why did we choose this? Why was the Hope College staff and faculty motivated to work long hours all summer—what is usually a time of rest—to make it possible for you to come back? Why did you, students, overwhelmingly want to be back on campus, even though you knew it would be different? And why are we, as a community, committed to doing hard, uncomfortable things for the sake of staying on-campus together?
Here are some of my reasons for choosing to do this hard thing, and why I think it will be worth it.
The first is that you will build relationships. Now this might sound counterintuitive: isn’t it harder than ever to make friends? But think of it this way: right now, we are living through an era that will define this century and will define your generation. For the rest of your time in college, for the next 10 years, at your 20 or even 50 year college reunion, you will remember and be talking about this semester. For the rest of your life, you’ll be saying things like, “I went to college during COVID,” or, “Remember when we met, you were wearing that mask?” For some of you, this will be your love story: “The first thing I noticed was her lovely eyes… because that was all I could see underneath her mask.” Shared experience is rich soil for relationships. As we live in this era together, you will make memories and friends that will last a lifetime.
Second, we want you here even though it is hard because we believe you have a lot to contribute. You have already proven your grit and resilience. You have dealt with an abrupt pivot to online classes, the disappointment of so many cancelled sports games, concerts, and events and you’re adapting to the current guidelines like champions. You are learning a lot. You are supporting each other. We know that you have a lot to contribute, and therefore you will make an impact here at Hope—and beyond!
Finally, and more broadly, we have chosen to do a hard thing this semester because we believe the world needs what we have here. The world is full of despair! It seems like we can’t go a day without another tragedy or hardship—from acts of police brutality to struggles with mental health—rearing its ugly head in the news or in our personal lives. The world needs hope! There is no better time to shape leaders to go out into the world as problem solvers and agents of hope. That’s you, and we are excited and determined to help equip you with what you need to spread hope to the world.
Yes, this Fall is going to be hard. There are lots of things we don’t like. And yet, as we yearn for this season to be over, we should also look for the opportunities that exist in the here and now. That is a profoundly Biblical mindset. As Christians, we yearn for God’s redemption of the world, but we don’t spend our whole lives just yearning for heaven! We look for joy in the midst of current suffering and keep our eyes set on the reasons why we persevere. That’s a mindset of hope.
“My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can! For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up power within you to endure all things. And then as your endurance grows even stronger it will release perfection into every part of your being until there is nothing missing and nothing lacking.”
James 1:2-4, TPT
Thank you, Hope College, for your endurance. You’re an inspiration.