April 23, 2019
The #MyWheaton blog shares first-person stories from Wheaton students and alumni.
Habits in Community
Emily Fromke '19 is a political science major from Concord, North Carolina. In this MyWheaton blog post, Emily looks back on her past four years spent in the Wheaton community and reflects on the challenges, joys, and lessons she’s experienced.
When I reflect upon the last four years at Wheaton I remember late nights singing along with friends as one played a guitar and the rest of us dreamed of performing altogether. I think about early mornings studying for quizzes and exams at Sam’s, heated theological and political debates, movie nights, worship nights, coffee dates, spontaneous dance parties, and of course reading, and studying, and some learning too. I remember studying politics in D.C., researching public policies in the Library of Congress, and visiting the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
Wheaton swung wide the door of opportunity to me.
But even more than the opportunities for vocational exploration, it is Wheaton’s community that has had the most profound impact.
I believe the communities we join shape us, whether we want them to or not and whether we know it or not. I came to Wheaton hoping that as I studied political science I would also grow closer to God. At Wheaton, I’ve found a community of Christians devoted to worshipping the living God. I’ve found friends and mentors who have challenged me to grow deeper in my relationship with Christ. It’s funny—not laughable funny, but interesting funny—to think that the Emily who will walk across Edman stage in May is a far different woman from the bookish high-schooler who first showed up to Wheaton’s campus for Connection on a cold and windy April day in 2014.
But this transformation wasn’t something that happened overnight. When I try to think of one moment that catalyzed some kind of transformation within me I come up with nothing. There was no “ah-ha!” moment when I understood a part of the work God has been doing. The process of sanctification is long and at times painful. I find comfort in the knowledge that believers living before, during, and after my time will all endure such a journey over the course of their spiritual lives. C.S. Lewis—a writer whose work I’ve only grown to cherish more during my time at Wheaton—explains sanctification this way in his book Mere Christianity:
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
I believe, like Lewis, that God is at work in the intimate places of our lives—places we’d prefer remain unsurrendered to him. But beyond that, I’ve also come to realize that God uses the small things to make a big impact. In fact, it is the daily habits, the simple daily rituals that come from being a student at Wheaton that have shaped me the most.
It was the prayers before meals in SAGA with friends and prayers that my professors prayed over our classes and over me specifically when I felt the love of God and the sweetness of the Body of Christ. It was during quiet times and Discipleship Small Group that I grew in my love for the Word of God. Church and brunch with my sister each week reminded me of the importance of family and fellowship within a church.
During the school week, the rhythm of working for the Wheaton Record—working with reporters, collaborating with editors, designers, and photographers, publishing the paper and responding to feedback from the community—taught me to overcome my fears of rejection in favor of listening to others and attempting to provide a space them to tell their own stories.
But perhaps most memorable will be my moments spent in chapel. Chapel has been one of the habits that has been most formative. Chapels oriented my day toward thinking about eternal things (and oriented my heart toward giving grace to other students). Being a student at Wheaton can be a little intense at times, but for forty minutes every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I know it’s okay to take a break from studying to worship God and reflect on the day.
I remember my first chapel at Wheaton, which I think was technically the first All School Communion of the year. When about 600 of us freshmen had finished singing our class song, “To whom shall we go” (for we’ve come to know that you are good!) the rest of the student body chanted “We Love Freshmen” over and over—unironically! I could only think, “Wow, what kind of a school am I at where upperclassmen are so excited about welcoming freshmen? And, where we kick off the semester by worshipping God and attempting to love him above all else?”
Beyond these habits, at Wheaton I have found opportunities for growth and encouragement through friendship. I have been blessed beyond measure with friends who challenge me daily to trust God more. Just last week two friends and I were discussing our post-graduation plans, and the uncertainty surrounding the next few years. Usually, when we talk about uncertainty we think about the negative connotation associated with the unknown. But there’s another side to the uncertainty that we forget to consider. For those of us who have faith in God, we know that all things work together for our good (but not necessarily our happiness). And nothing is uncertain to God.
As I look ahead to my transition from Wheaton this May, one of my friends encouraged me to consider the thrill of the unknown. The thrill! We trust in God for our salvation and know that in the end, no matter what happens we will be bodily resurrected and live in the new heaven and earth with God forever. In the meantime, whatever we do we do as though working for God. And, we heed Jesus’s words in Matthew chapter six to not be anxious about what we will eat and drink, wear, or where we’ll live or work, but to trust that our Father in heaven already knows what we need.
During this season of great anticipation, I am working on eagerly anticipating rather than dreading the unknowns and learning to wait expectantly to grow in the knowledge of God. After graduation, I’m looking forward to gaining work experience as a Falls Church Fellow, a new adventure, unknown as of yet. As I think about this four-year chapter at Wheaton coming to a close, I feel a stab of joy as I consider the thrill of the unknown and when I remember how I’ve experienced the goodness of the Lord these four years at Wheaton.