Monday, June 1, 2020

When Racism Became Real for a White Woman

***This was originally intended for friends and family on my personal Facebook page, but I have had a number of requests to make it shareable and to publish it. I pray part of my story will bring healing, understanding, and healing to those who need it.*****

I've struggled with posting this because I'm not sure it will be taken the way it is intended. It is going to be long. Some things are too important to not say though. I don't talk about my first teaching job often. It was not a pleasant experience and 19 years later, I'm still not sure that I would ever willingly go back to a classroom as a result. I taught in an inner city black community. I went to NYC middle schools and high schools where the schools were very diverse, so I thought I knew what I was in for. I was very, very wrong. I was one of 4 white teachers - we were their diversity. My first day interacting with parents and students was an open house. My first family walked in, looked at me, curtly said, "I thought this was a BLACK school" and walked out. They never came back. While I heard other teachers talking about how warm their parents had been, I spent a day with cold shoulders, guarded faces, and blatant disappointment. Several weeks into the school year, one of my colleagues, who had grown up in the community, walked into my classroom after students were dismissed, shut the door, and said she needed to talk to me before something happened. As kindly as she could, she told me that my presence in the school was not welcomed by many parents and being a young white woman meant I was not safe outside the school walls. She asked me to please make sure I always left the neighborhood before dark, always went directly home and never stopped at a local store, and to please make sure I had someone with me walking from the school to my car in the parking lot right outside the building. For the rest of the school year, she did not leave until I did. I didn't understand. Even in the middle of it all, I didn't understand what was going on.
There were 2 encounters during my time there that began to open my eyes. The first was one of my students - Brandon. He was a very intelligent, highly verbal kid. He was a joy, and a terror, to teach! One day in the middle of math, he got out of his seat and gave me a hug. Looking up at me he said, "I am so glad Mama is going to let me stay in your class. She didn't want me having a white teacher, but said she would give you a chance. She says you are the only white lady who has ever been nice to us and you care about us, so I can stay. I like you. I don't want to leave." My heart broke. I was the ONLY white women that Mom had ever felt cared about her. The next was a father. Both he and his wife held Masters degrees. They had come back to the community they grew up in to help it change. They were strong Christians. They walked in for a parent-teacher conference after a string of very difficult meetings with parents. It must have shown. They took one look at me. Mom gave me a hug. Dad said, "Ignore how you are being treated. They don't get it. They don't get you. They never see white people who have good intentions and their culture tells them all white people are out for them. I know that isn't true. You know it isn't true. But they do not. Please, do not leave our school. Our community needs you. Our children need to see a white person who loves them. I know this has to be very hard, but you may be the only light they see." I couldn't believe he sincerely thought I may be the ONLY white person those kids would interact with whom they could trust.
I lasted 2 years in that school. I was offered another job, but I pushed through an additional semester because I was pregnant and knew I was leaving anyway. The stress of being hated for my color, for what I represented to them, for the sins of people who looked like me, not feeling safe, hearing my history washed out of books and treated with contempt was too much. But, I got to go home every night to my safe community, where my husband and I could walk the dog without fear. I could drive to the grocery store and never think about the cop on the corner - except for hoping he'd have some compassion if my stick-shift rolled back that steep hill as I tried to shift into first. After my maternity leave, we moved to a rural white community in PA. I have never had to live or work in those conditions again.
I lasted 2 years. Now imagine living that your entire life, with no place to escape, no one to protect you. At some point, you are going to break. In no way am I saying I fully understand. As a white middle class American I can't understand, but I've had a small taste, and that pain runs deeper than any of us can imagine. As long as we shut down peaceful protests, as long as we make excuses, as long as we hearken back to the "good old days" which weren't so good for entire communities in our nation, as long as we fail to speak out, the pain will continue, the wounds will fester, and the violence will escalate. I don't know what happened with any of my students. But I do know that especially if that father's prediction was correct, some of them are protesters and rioters - and I don't blame them.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Its the End of the World as We Know It (and we'll be fine)

Social media, mainstream media, family conversations, all center around the drastic changes we have seen in the last 2 months. We have reached the point where we've had enough. We can all handle disruptions to our lives for a few weeks, maybe even a month, but as we reach the 2 month mark it feels unbearable. Tempers flare. Accusations fly. Stubbornness unfolds. Fear unfurls. We want our lives back.

This has been a different experience for our family than it has for most others. For the most part, nothing has changed. There are fewer things on the schedule. Groceries are harder to come by. We are eager to see any face other than each others. But our day to day has changed very little. You see, what the nation is going through now, we did 2 years ago.

It was a text message, an upset stomach, an email, then finally a phone call which flipped our world upside down, stripped away every expectation, distanced us from each other, under-minded our financial security, and locked us at home. It was the end of our world as we knew it.

But we are fine. 2 years later, still dealing with the consequences, we have a new normal and we are fine. Eventually we will be back together. Eventually we will be out and about, active in church and community again. It will never be the same. Never.  That will be fine.

What I see going on around us now is exactly what I went through 2 years ago. Fear. Anger. Blame. Self-doubt. Facts. Figures. Regulations. Legal rights......
"Its not fair."
"What about my rights?"
"What about my needs?"
"He should do the right thing!"
"How are we supposed to afford this."
"Just because they say we have to doesn't mean we do."

It didn't change a thing. It couldn't change a thing. None of it was in our control.

When life feels out of control, when it is unfair, when people in power are making decisions which adversely effect our lives, our capabilities, and our freedoms, there is grief. It looks like anger. It looks like being resigned. It looks like many different things - but ultimately it is grief. We must grieve the life we had, and begin foraging into a new normal.

As someone who has been through this recently, I learned a few things about going through a crisis:

1 - God is ultimately in control. It doesn't matter who is in the Oval Office, sitting on Capitol Hill, in the governor's chamber, researching at the CDC, patrolling your local street, manning the ED, stocking grocery shelves. God has placed each and every person there for "such a time as this". There is no such thing as "non-essential". God has placed you and every other individual where they are in this moment of history for a specific reason - and those reasons may surprise you and them. There is no decision made, law passed, regulation lifted, test developed, shelf remaining empty which does not work in His plan. So rest assured, no matter what, God has this.

2 - You are not in control and you do not have the answers.  Maybe that seems obvious, but we need the reminder. God does not work on our terms. He does not do things primarily to make our lives easier, or preserve our freedoms, or keep us healthy, or provide an income. He does not work in our time frame, through the means we think he should, or toward the ends we believe to be right. The sooner we admit and live as if we do not have the answers and we cannot control the situation, the sooner we can trust God and begin to see things as He does.

3 - The sooner you can chose to accept the worse possible outcome, the sooner you can work toward the best solution. I don't mean that as quietly sitting back and watching the world go by. I mean accepting the worse thing you can think of happening, the worse you may not have thought of happening, and nothing you or anyone else does can stop it, yet knowing, believing, and acting as if it will be okay. Once you do that, once you rest in the knowledge that no matter what "it is well with my soul". It is easier to think clearly, plan productively, advocate justly, and live fully. Not that there won't be bad days or weeks. Not that there aren't times to demand change and justice. Not that we should not keep pursuing truth. But that even in those endeavors, you are at peace with whatever the outcome. Those things are done with love, grace, compassion, and humility. You can fully love God and love your neighbor no matter the cost.

4 - Be prepared and willing to change in ways you don't want to. We all want to go back to our lives, but they are no longer there to go back to. Even if we opened up the nation tomorrow with every job intact, store stocked, and hospital staffed, it is never going to be the same. Our lives, our loves, our priorities have changed. The harder we hold on to the past, the harder it will be for all of us to make a way forward. There will be changes we love and ones we hate. There will be changes we never thought we would see, and others we wish would have happened. There will be pleasant surprises, and bitter disappointments. In it all, we each have the choice of how we will respond, how we will change. Will we become angry and bitter? Will be blindly accept whatever happens? Will we love our neighbor first, ourselves first, God first? Will we dig in our heals, or adapt?

I have no idea what the future will bring. Maybe we will be a socialist dictatorship by the end of this. Maybe we will regain liberties lost over the decades. Maybe the economy will boom stronger than ever, or maybe it will fall apart. Maybe we will have a deadly resurgence, or maybe this will become a tale our grandchildren laugh at wondering why we were so afraid of this virus. In the end, it doesn't matter. Possibly the most important lesson I learned through my "end of the world" moment was what Paul meant when he said, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Phil 1:21 ESV)  This world is not about us. It is about Christ. My life is not about me. It is about Christ. I have nothing to lose in this life and everything to gain in the next.

The children and I have talked about the possibilities of the world's events and how it, and our own saga, will end. We talk about what will happen if Mommy gets sick, if Daddy can't come home, if we can't go on vacation, if libraries and parks don't open, if the Constitution falls, if...., if...., if..... I hope they always remember just once thing: No matter what, God is Sovereign. No matter what, you are loved by a God who gave everything for you. No matter what, even if it is the End of the World....

It is well, it is well with my soul.

So we'll be fine.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Victory through Surrender

It happened again last night. That midnight cry for Mommy. Stumbling down the hall, I lifted my crying son, carried him to our rocking chair, and offered him his bottle. 20 minutes later I stood with the sleeping satisfied infant, struggling against exhaustion to stay upright as I laid him back into his bed. Tripping over a laundry basket, I found my way back to my own bed, surrendering to sleep before my head hit the pillow. 

"Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest" Matt 11:28

Life is exhausting. I've been feeling this more than ever the last two years. The daily ins and outs of this life are overwhelming. There is more than one person could ever hope to accomplish, so the "do-to" list grows longer and the stress grows stronger. It is an hourly fight to not give up. To not give in. To not surrender.

As a good Reformed evangelical I've heard from birth how to "fight the good fight". How God will enable to me "fight my Goliaths", to face temptation, to do "all things through Him who gives me strength."  Pray, read your Bible, go to church, search for God's wisdom. Yet every day I move further and further into exhaustion. What was once a daily battle to find the grace and strength of God has become an hourly or minute-by-minute fight. All those "to-do's" just add to my list of things I don't accomplish- the list of failures and inadequacies - until I fall on my face and tell God I give up. "I can't do it. I won't do it. Please just take me home. Let me finally rest."

He responds, "You are right. This is not your fight."

The image of the Christian-warrior is woven all through scripture. We are told to "put on the full armor of God". We are instructed we have a battle "against the cosmic powers of this present darkness". So we fight. We fight sin. We fight temptation. We fight injustice....

And we wear ourselves out. 

But, Scripture is also full of instructions to surrender and submit.
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the fleshbut those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is deathbut to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to Godfor it does not submit to God's lawindeedit cannot.  Romans 8:5-7

We do live in a war zone - one that dwells within us. Romans 8 comes after Paul discusses this battle between sin and the Spirit. But his solution is not fighting - it is surrender. We either surrender to "the flesh", or we surrender to God.  It is not a matter of whom we are fighting, we are not powerful enough to battle either side of this war. It is a question of to whom we are surrendering.

Scripture gives us example after example of faithful warriors who saw victory through surrender. David trusted God, and God defeated the Philistine giant Goliath. Joshua submitted, and God broke down Jericho's walls. Jesus stayed silent before his accusers, prayed "Not my will but yours be done", surrendered, and gained eternal victory. 

One of the greatest lies we live within the today's church is the necessity to fight. We fight ourselves. We fight the world. We fight each other. We fight in politics, literature, music, movies, and education.  I recently saw a church meme which stated, "If you don't master every area of your life, something else will".  I've heard so very often within the church community, "God has not yet given me victory".  Those are lies. They are exhausting lies. They are destructive lies. They are killing us. Killing our witness. Killing our nation. 

There are only 2 powers in this world - the power of Sin and the power of  God. We simply serve one power or the other. (Read Romans 7) God has already won the victory. It is certain. It is assured. We are each mastered by something. We are never our own masters. The question we are called to answer is, by whom are we mastered? To whom have we surrendered?  That changes everything!

This is what allows Jesus to say, "Come to me and I will give you rest."

Surrender is restful. Fighting is exhausting.

Surrender is trust in a bigger power. Fighting is trust in ourselves. 
Surrender to God leads to life. Surrender to sin leads to death. 

I am giving up the fight. I can't anymore. I am beaten down, broken, and unable to lift up my head. I was never called to fight this battle anyway. I will however, make daily, hourly, momentary decisions of surrender. I will rest in an active surrender which is more powerful, more trustworthy, more victorious than any battle I could ever fight. I surrender to the power of God within me to do "the next right thing". This does not mean I simply let life go by and am not active. It is the exact opposite. It means when faced with sleep or a crying child, I surrender to love. When faced with life's twists and turns, I surrender to trusting the One who holds the world in His hand. When sinned against, I surrender to forgiveness. When my rights conflict with someone else's, I surrender to sacrifice. When the budget is tight, I surrender to generosity. When death seems easier, I surrender to life. When my life is too much, I surrender it to Christ's death. This is more active, more involved, more dangerous than any fighting I can do. In Disney's "Frozen II" Anna sings a song which perfectly explains: 

How to rise from the floor?
But it's not you I'm rising for
Just do the next right thing
Take a step, step again
It is all that I can to do
The next right thing

I'm tired. I see a Church that is tired. I see a nation that is tired. Maybe it is time to stop fighting and start surrendering, one "next right thing" at a time. Maybe it is time to beat our swords into plows and surrender the fight to the One who has already won it. 

All to Jesus I surrender
All to Him I freely give
I will ever love and trust Him
In His presence daily live
All to Jesus I surrender
Humbly at His feet I bow
Worldly pleasures all forsaken
Take me Jesus take me now

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Hating What Is, To Love What Should Be

I've put off writing this for a long time. It hurts. It hurts to admit what no parent should ever feel. It reveals a part of me I don't want to exist. It is something I know many won't understand. It is something I don't understand because it isn't supposed to be this way. Yet, on this Holy Week, it is more true, more appropriate, and more necessary than my desire to hide it.

It isn't all the time and often it catches me unaware. It may be a tilt of the head or a profile view. It happens most in the early morning and evenings at bedtime - those first moments of shaking off the sleepy night and the droopy eyes after a busy day. When he is upset and crying it becomes so clear even though in the moment to moment of life I forget. My heart breaks. Anger rises up as I struggle not to turn away from seeing it - the almond shaped eyes with heavy bags, the lax jaw allowing a too large tongue to peek between his sweet lips, the ears that are just a little too small and slightly too low. These are physical reminders that all is not "right" within the very things that make this child I love who he is.

I hate it.

Not every parent of a special needs child feels this way. We all grieve and process, love and accept in different ways. This is the story of my struggle. In fact, those differences is what makes this harder. From the moment of his diagnosis I've been told: "It doesn't matter. He is perfect."  "He is exactly how God created him." "He is no different from any other child." I hear it from other special needs Moms. I've heard it from other Christians.

Yet as I watch my 6 month old lay his head face down in the floor, crying in exhaustion and frustration, struggling to lift his head for more than 2 minutes, then giving up because it is too hard, I know it isn't true. This is not the way it was intended to be.  He was created to be so much more than this. At the very beginning of his existence, something went terribly wrong. How can I as I loving parent reconcile loving this child so much and yet hating the very thing that defines so much of who he is?

As we head into this Holy Weekend, I have to wonder if this is how God looks at me.  When God created the first man and woman He looked on them with love and said, "It is very good." We were perfectly created in His image, to be His caretakers of the rest of creation, to spend our lives in glorifying Him and loving each other.  But, something went terribly, horrifically wrong. From the moment of that first bite of the Forbidden Fruit, we were no longer what we were created to be. That image of God written into our DNA was corrupted. Our loving, care-taking nature was transformed into pride and self-idolatry that has redefined who we are and what we do.

From the 3rd chapter of Genesis until now, we read in the Scriptures and observe through history the story of God, the struggle of God, loving this human race He perfectly created, yet hating the very thing that drives us. The entire Old Testament is God calling to humanity to return to what He created it to be - and us failing at every attempt. It is the story of mankind lifting its head to look up to the heavens for a brief time, then face planting, eyes to the ground, in pain, frustration, and exhaustion. We cannot do what we were created to do. It takes a strength we do not possess and all the therapy, exercise, and encouragement in the world is not going to change that.

God looks on his creation with love, and hatred.  But, He was able to do for me what I can never do for my son:

God came down, suffered every pain and misery, to change the very core of who I am back to what He created me to be.

You see, we believe a lie. It is a lie preached from too many pulpits in our churches. It is a lie we tell ourselves over and over again, because it is easier to believe the lie than to face the reality. We face-plant in the ground, unable to look up and tell ourselves "God loves me just as I am. I am exactly who He created me to be."  We tell others they must accept us for "who we are" because "God made me this way". Meanwhile, God is sitting next to us saying, "No! I intended so much more for you than this. Pick up your head and look at me." And just as my son does, we keep our heads in the ground because we have reached the end of our own strength and cannot look up.

God looks on us and says, "I hate who you are. But I love you enough to change you into who you are supposed to be."  He looks at our pride, our selfishness, our desire for ease, our physical drives, our striving for happiness, our need for success - and He hates it. It takes the purpose for which we were created and corrupts it into what He never desired for us. He sees us relaxing, face-planted on the ground, ignorant of all He has for us, and knows we are not strong enough to look up.

So He came down, got on the floor, placed His holy perfect unblemished hands on our muddy, dirty faces, and lifted up our head.

I know that as time goes on my reaction to my son's physical characteristics of his extra chromosome will fade. In time I will probably learn to expect them instead of being surprised by them.  But for now, when the grief rises up, when I feel the anger begin to bubble, I am reminded of the Cross. I am reminded that my Creator so hated what I am, and so loved who He created me to be, that He took on himself what he most hated to transform me into what He most loves. One day, the transformation begun on the Cross will be completed and I will stand before my Heavenly Father exactly as He created me to be...... and, by His grace, my perfected son will be next to me.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Choosing Life

"I need to know by Monday if you change your mind about termination."
"Okay. Well, thank you for calling and letting me know."
"Again, I'm sorry and expect to hear from a case manager next week. Have a good weekend."

I hung up the phone and turned around to face the man behind me, standing there with a concerned look. He had rushed our children to the dinner table when I stepped outside to take the call. I knew the call was coming. My doctor had left a voice mail earlier in the day saying she needed to talk to me about test results. I wasn't worried. I was 41, pregnant with baby #7. I figured my glucose or vitamin D levels were out of normal range. Been there. Done that. I was just going to need to work a trip to the pharmacy into a busy Friday then we could take a family trip to go buy our new little girl or boy his/her first outfit!

Now, looking at him I took a breath, struggling to hold back tears, I wondered how we had gotten to this place. Years of misplaced priorities, difficult ministry positions, deployments, children, and homeschooling had taken its toll. We were struggling to keep this 20 year marriage together.  This new baby was the result of marriage counseling. The irony was not lost on me!  Just a few weeks before our counselor had been trying to convince me that while this is not the way he would have suggested working on a marriage, God had given us this new baby partly to help us have a new beginning, and He was going to use him/her to help us -  to breathe new life into something that was dead. I wasn't so sure.

I looked at my husband, not too sure how he was going to respond. "That was my OB with the NIPT results. The baby tested positive for Down Syndrome - they are 98% certain.  I turned down termination and an amnio, but we have until Monday to decide. I will be going to Hawaii for a fetal echo-cardiogram. I will be scheduled to see maternal fetal medicine in the next week to start monitoring growth, heart, and intestines. I will probably have to deliver back in the states. The baby probably won't be able to go to your next duty station because more than likely he will need more interventions than what they have there."

He put an arm around me; pulled me in for a hug. "Its going to be okay. We can do this."

After a few minutes, and more than a few more tears, we walked into the dining room and our son asked, "Is it a boy?!"
I had forgotten to ask.

The following week we got our next blow. Our request for a change in orders was met with, "Your family does not have to go. You go with them, or without them."

It is National Right to Life Sunday. It hits very close to home this year. Pictures of marchers on the Mall in DC bring tears to my eyes as I rock my little boy and text my distant husband. They are marching for my son - for unborn children like him who deserve a chance to live despite their circumstances. For me - for women like me who are facing the darkest moments of their lives and feeling completely alone. For my husband - for men who need to know they are necessary, they are needed, they are important. They march for those who are not blessed with the support system we have - to create a culture that supports, that loves, that tells them they "can", and that there is beauty in the ashes. They march to create a society and government that assumes life, not death.

We chose life for a marriage that was dead. We chose life for our son whose future is unpredictable. Our choice for life put us right into the place we wanted to avoid - separated.  Our choice for life put an end to the life I wanted for myself.

I sit here writing this not knowing how this story is going to end. It has been a very long, dark, and difficult year. I don't know what the future holds for my baby boy. I don't even know what life holds for our marriage. I don't know if I will ever see my personal dreams realized. There are many struggles ahead. It isn't going to be easy. But I do know:

  • After the flurry of doctors and nurses left my hospital room with a fetal heart-rate stablized for the moment, where I was settling back into bed, alone and on oxygen, when my OB asked what I needed I said, "My husband."  As she directed a nurse to call the Red Cross to bring him home, the tears I cried were not just ones of anxiety for my unstable baby, but because I knew how much that one request really meant. 
  • 2 days later when he walked into my post-partum room, directly from the airport after 24 hours of travel, I fell into his arms in tears and never wanted to leave. As he pushed me down to the NICU, unable to walk the distance myself after the c-section, to meet our son, I struggled to not  think about having to say good-bye again in a few days and to enjoy the time we did have.
  • That baby boy asleep upstairs has already in his 11 months of life (3 outside the womb) touched our lives, our family, and others in ways I could have never imagined.  We cannot imagine life without him. 

The choice for Life is hard. It can be dark. It can push us past our limits and make us jump into a seemingly bottomless abyss.  It can require more from us than we ever thought possible. It can force us to rely on others and to trust what has failed us before. It changes our hopes, our dreams, our priorities.

It is Beautiful. It is Good. It is Love. 

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
 I came that they may have life
   and have it abundantly." 
John 10:10

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

An Open Letter as You Leave the Nest

My Dear Girl,

Can you believe the day has finally arrived?! Your Dad and I are excited for all you have ahead of you as you venture out into adulthood.  You've worked hard for this and we could not be more proud. We have taught you many things in the last 17 years, but there are a few things I hope you will carry with you no matter what life brings your way. As important as history, science, math and Latin are, if you remember nothing else, remember this:

1) You are more loved than you will ever know, which means you are called to love more deeply than you think possible. While there is nothing that could make us love you any more or any less than we do, the love God has for you far surpasses anything we can offer. Remember that no matter what: the successes, the failures, the joys, the sorrows - He loved you enough to die for you and will never leave you. There is nothing you can do, or not do, that will separate you from God's love. But, His love for you calls you to love others the same way. That love will bring you joy you can't imagine, and heartache you won't think you will be able to bear. As God chose to love you, we choose to love others. That will mean there are time you will have to choose to love people you would rather not, and walk away from people you want to love. Love is never a feeling. It isn't about what makes you happy, who you feel attracted to (romantic or Platonic), what you are drawn to - it is a choice to honor God above all else. That extends to not just how you treat others, but to how others treat you. Look beyond the words, the feelings, and even the actions, to the heart and soul. Remember: For I am sure that neither death nor lifenor angels nor rulers
nor things present nor things to comenor powers, nor height nor depth
nor anything else in all creationwill be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8: 38-39 ESV

2) Look for the Good, the True, and the Beautiful - This next step in your educational and life journey is not about career training, making money, or gaining experience. It is the next step in learning about the nature and character of God. As the creator, designer, and author of all creation, history, cultures, and creativity, His fingerprint is in all you see and study. Stay rooted in His Scripture so you can find and discover His revealing of Himself in all you will study and experience. Whether you are reading Plato, deriving formulas, playing Bach Concertos, sledding down snowy slopes, diving the depths of the sea, or simply walking to the grocery store, His fingerprint is there, calling you closer to Him.  There are times He will brilliantly reveal Himself through the "music of the spheres" and other times He will be a pinprick of light within the darkness, but He is there.
Finallybrotherswhatever is truewhatever is honorablewhatever is just
whatever is purewhatever is lovelywhatever is commendable
if there is any excellenceif there is anything worthy of praise
think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and 
seen in me practice these thingsand the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4: 8-9 ESV

3) For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. I Corinthians 13: 12 ESV - There is no philosophy, theology, theory, professor, teacher, theologian, scientist, or teaching that is completely and fully True. That is only found in God, and we are not capable of fully understanding Him. This is a life-long journey of sanctification that requires humility, wisdom, discernment, and study. Don't be afraid to question - and to question everything presented to you. There are very few things we can be completely sure of with our limited human understanding. And those things we can be sure of must be taken in faith because we cannot fully understand them: The Lord is God and He is One; Christ is the only means of Salvation, by grace, through Faith; All Scripture is breathed out from God and is reliable for teaching and rebuke.  Be Reformed and always Reforming. Have the humility to question and be corrected; have the strength to stand up for what is True, and Good, and Beautiful; have the Love needed to walk alongside your fellow life-travelers, all of whom are simply on this journey with you. Some may be ahead of you, and some may be behind, but all are just as reliant on the Grace and Faith granted them by God as you are. One day all will be fully revealed, but in the mean-time, be part of the process of God's revelation to the world. 

As you prepare to board that plane, and literally fly off into the world, I want to leave you with the benediction I heard your Grandfather recite almost weekly. This isn't an end as much as it is a beginning - and we will always be here watching, waiting, and loving you. 

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than 
all that we ask or think, 
according to the power at work within us, 
to him be glory in the church 
[and in you] 
and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations
forever and everAmen
Ephesians 3: 20-21