I knew I wanted to go to Bethany, mainly because I heard a ton of stories from my sister. When my mom said that there was a possibility I might not get into or be able to go to Bethany, she asked me if I’d like to go to Goshen or anywhere else, but I was adamant– only Bethany. I liked that it was a small school, and I was told that my class would welcome me with open arms. Thankfully that’s how it turned out, and I can say it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. This experience has really shown me what I value in a community: hard work, kindness, genuineness, humor, supportiveness, open mindedness. To accept people even with different views and ideas from my own, whether or not you completely agree with them. To challenge me because I’m not always right, and to always be there for each other. I have gained more confidence than ever before, and hope to have even more uplifting friends in college and for myself to do the same for them. It’s scary to leave the environment I’ve grown used to these past two years and to go through yet another big change in my life. But I know that if I can do it once, I can certainly do it again.
My understanding of the concept of God grew significantly this year when I had the chance to play God in the musical Children of Eden. The role was both terrifying and confusing right off the bat — terrifying because, well, I was supposed to play God and there's a saying about playing God for a reason, and confusing because I don't believe God resembles a person at all, and yet I was supposed to portray this incomprehensible non-human entity onstage. I learned a lot from the experience, mostly about myself, but it got me thinking in a new way about the idea of humans being made in God's image. This is something that's clearly stated in the Bible, and we talk about it a lot, but it somehow still didn't sink in literally for me. And yes, after a lot of thinking, I do believe some of it must be literal. While humans are obviously not the same as God, I don't think that we would be created in God's image if there weren't some significant similarities. I don't know exactly what the similarities are — whether our souls are replications of a part of God, or our bodies are somehow a physical representation of God — but the idea of being made in God's image is one that's helped me feel closer to God. The idea that all people are made in God's image, even those who are incredibly different from me, is also something that helps me understand the complexity of God better. These people, who are made in God's image, have their own images of God that are different from mine, but that doesn't mean they're wrong. It just means that God is complicated. While thinking of God as an incomprehensible, non-corporeal being isn't exactly conducive to a straight-forward relationship, knowing that I'm made in God's image reassures me that God understands me as I am.
Life really is what you make of it, it’s all about your perspective. Everyone’s decisions are based on their perspective, and if you can keep a positive outlook, your decisions remain positive. If we fall into the trap of hopelessness, our perspective stays down there with us. But if you can get past that, your perspective can shift, and you can continue on with your life.Take for example this senior year. School has been online for the past month and a half and a lot of senior activities have been canceled or changed to something different than usual. While this may be disappointing, it is only one year. My perspective has allowed me to view this year as special, because it is unique, it is something that I can talk about with other seniors into the next coming years. It is something that connects us all. My perspective has allowed me to step away from the current situation and look at the bigger picture.
Throughout my soccer career, I wrestled with trying to become a better soccer player. I always thought I would just be a JV player, until I heard Hank read this verse: “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else.” (Galatians 6:4) I shouldn’t be caught up comparing myself to others around me, I should focus on my own actions and work so I can accomplish my goals and work as well as celebrating others. Then this work paid off. After missing a penalty kick in a varsity game, I finally scored a goal. This verse helped me work harder rather than giving up.
In one of our last projects for senior bible this year, we were instructed to design our own community for the fall. I said that I needed people who aren’t afraid to challenge my views and beliefs of the world. I don’t want to be complacent and it’s not really in my personality to be complacent. I want my community to be filled with the spontaneous, the intellects, and the justice seekers. I want people who challenge me to be the best version of myself. But will also support me and help me accomplish my goals. I have found this sense of community here at Bethany and I hope to do the same in the fall. I have absolutely no idea if this is what my community is going to look like and I think it is completely fine if it doesn’t look exactly like this.
While I have enjoyed the opportunities to serve others at Bethany on our annual service days, more than this I’ve come to appreciate the importance of being served. On service day this year, my mentor group cleaned up the Elkhart river and helped clean a neighbor’s yard as well. She was so happy to have us there that she went out and got donuts for all 15 of us, and insisted that we take breaks to enjoy them. I know we all found this hospitality incredibly touching. The summer going into my senior year, I was thrilled to spend 2 weeks in Asuncion, Paraguay, being absorbed in a different culture, meeting new people, and speaking a new language. There wasn’t really any service aspect of this trip. We weren’t going to be “helping” anybody. We were there to experience their hospitality, and learn from their culture, and this trip was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life.
A verse that I find important to me is Mark 12:31 which reads “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Now this verse is a part of the ten commandments and well known but I think it is often overlooked. It is asking us to love everyone the way we would want to be loved. That is a huge thing to ask of humans because we are imperfect. This verse is asking me to love someone who pulled out in front of me on the road, or someone who tripped me in the hall and didn’t apologize, or even someone who consciously or unconsciously hurt my feelings. To me that is a big task to ask people to do. But I have come to learn that it is one of the most important and powerful things I can do. Showing love to everyone even if you don’t think they deserve it changes your outlook on life. It definitely is not always an easy thing to do and honestly I don’t always do it because I, like anyone else, am not perfect. But when I do practice this skill I find that I am a happier person. Through having patience and loving others I have learned that often people generally aren't just mean, many times they are going through something that I didn’t even know about. This verse has helped me to be a more loving, forgiving, and understanding person.