Posted March 8, 2016 by
Tags: Leadership Student Programs Summer Camp
I open the front door. Not bad – I’m guessing it is somewhere around 8°F. Maybe colder since this winter the temperature has dipped as low as -22 F with wind chill. Subzero temperatures can do a number on your body, which according to experts, a wind chill of -50°F can cause frostbite in five minutes. But hey - what other 23 year olds in their first job get to ride their mountain bike through beautiful roads and trails to work every day?
As the Passage Coordinator for HoneyRock, the Outdoor Center for Leadership Development of Wheaton College, I made a significant transition from HoneyRock, centered deep in the woods, to living on my own in a small apartment a few miles away. One of the things that I was excited about with this move was the opportunity to bike to work every day, since I have always been an active, outdoor enthusiast.
Once I’m bundled up I strap on my messenger bag and head out the door. As I ride and the morning chill continues to wake my body up, I am easily distracted by the beauty of God’s creation around me. Though I see the same scenery every day, I daily experience God in His creation in a new way.
At about 1 mile in there is a tree that is massive in both height and girth, that taunts me with its potential for climbing and shocks me with its health despite being hundreds of years old.
At about 1.5 miles into the ride I crest a hill and round a curve towards the old boxcar dam. I often stop on this bridge on my way home, leaning my bike up against a tree and lying down in the snow to reflect on my day as I envelope myself in the paradoxical serenity of the night.
After a few minutes I ride down a small hill and back up again, riding through the last curve before the HoneyRock Rock comes into vision.
Ultimately, biking to work has created a small, daily space and time to transition, where I experience the love of God. Transitions haven’t always been easy for me, especially the transition from high school to college. I struggled deeply with the changes that were taking place. I was questioning my identity, wrestling with God, exploring new ideas, trying to make my faith my own and attempting to fit into the Wheaton culture. Though I received an overwhelming amount of support from my teammates, coaches, friends and family, in the end, I was so stricken by self-doubt, self-condemnation and depression that I withdrew from Wheaton College during February of my freshman year.
Unable to complete my freshman semester, I took six months off. I took time to reflect, explore the inner landscape of heart, seek counsel from professionals, mentors and friends and reestablish my identity in Christ. I returned to Wheaton with a new foundation and tools to make the most of college. The transitional experience that should have occurred between high school and college finally happened during those 6 months off.
Thinking back, I often wonder if my experience would have been different had I participated in Wheaton Passage. Wheaton College offers Wheaton Passage, an optional, experientially based spiritual formation course that helps students build peer relationships, connect with upperclass student leaders and faculty and prepare in mind, body and soul for the next four years of college.
In the best decade, significant research has focused in on the importance of intentionality in transition. This research, including some done by Wheaton College professors, has shown that how students start college will significantly impact the entirety of their college experience. In response to this, many colleges and universities, including Wheaton College, offer transitional programs to freshman students.
If I had taken the time to root myself in the love of God during Passage amongst a community of peers, establish a relationship with a professor, reflect on the past and cast a vision for my future Wheaton experience, perhaps I wouldn’t have needed the 6 months off to rebuild. I’ll never know the answer to that question, and I am grateful for the time that I spent away from Wheaton, as painful as it was, but I do truly believe that enrolling in Passage may be the most important decision that an incoming student can make. For more information, check out our website or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.