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Posted October 20, 2017 by

Embracing the Love of God

How Passage Equips Students to Thrive Beyond Insecurities on Campus

Maddy Preston ‘18 is a double major in Applied Health Science and Spanish. She is the Managing Editor at the Wheaton Record and leads a high school Bible study at her church. Her favorite classes at Wheaton so far have been her BITH gen ed requirements because they taught her to think about the Bible in ways she never did when she was growing up. She came to Wheaton because her mother and grandparents were students here and for a supportive Christian Community.

“Do you all think people will like Maddy when you get to campus?”

It’s a weird question out of context, so let me back up.

It was halfway through Passage 2014, and our professor had told us to take a rock, imagine all our sins and anxieties were on that rock, and throw it into the lake. After he gave us his instructions, I took my rock, grumbled to myself, “What is this, an eighth-grade youth retreat?” and trudged off into the woods.

Maddy Preston Working

But my reluctance to do the activity was not really because I thought it was juvenile or patronizing; it was because I was terrified of letting go of that rock.

The worst possible thing I could imagine for college was loneliness—that people wouldn’t like me and I wouldn’t make friends. How could I let go of that rock, my paranoid obsession with making myself lovable, when it was the only hope I had of being loved?

So when my professor asked the group that question—“Do you all think people will like Maddy when you get to campus?”—after I confessed my fears during our follow-up discussion, it was the first step in overcoming that insecurity. It wasn’t like anyone was going to say “no,” but I had a feeling he wouldn’t have asked if he didn’t know what the honest answer was going to be.  

HoneyRock students walking

But more important than learning that my group liked me was starting to understand the way God loves me. Even if the answer to the question had been a resounding “no,” it wouldn’t have mattered because it was not their love that determined my worth.

One of our readings for Passage was Embracing the Love of God, which emphasizes our total inability to earn God’s love. That book taught me that God’s love is unlike any love I will ever be able to comprehend. Unlike human love, it does not build our own self-confidence, but rather our confidence in God’s ability to accept us unconditionally. And it is this unconditional love that frees us from our self-conscious anxiety.   

Three years later I returned to Passage as a leader. Rereading Embracing the Love of God reinforced those lessons and chased away what remaining insecurities I had. As I watched my students interact with their new classmates, I longed for them to step into their new community confident in their worth in Christ.

Maddy Preston - Friends

In my students, I saw glimpses of my freshman self and marveled at how I’ve changed. In many ways, the person I was three years ago is not who I am today. I changed my major. My hair has blond highlights now. I don’t cry when I hear “Home” by Ben Rector anymore.

But the most important difference I see is that I am confident in the knowledge that I am loved. Since freshman year, I have embraced what that means and why that makes me who I am. And that started with Passage.