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To tread

cedarville

When I was a junior in high school, I got a Cedarville Admissions DVD in the mail. It was cool – the DVD was bendier than normal discs, so it would be safer while traveling in the mail.

I watched that DVD countless times. It gave me chills (it was marketed in such a way so as to give us chills, and I know that, but still) and my heart fluttered every time I watched it. I didn’t have a doubt that Cedarville was where God wanted me. I still don’t.

It was the only school I applied to and I was accepted by September of my senior year of high school. I had visited a few times, and each time it was as though I could sense God nodding at me.

Yes, Courtney. Go ahead and do this. I will breathe goodness and truth into your life over these years. I will be with you.

Over my last four years here, there were times when I was sure I had been defeated. Many days were spent neck-deep in anxiety over money, wondering if I would be able to finish. Then, God would show me His faithfulness.

And I’m graduating without ever having had to take time off because of money.

I can’t tell you how huge that is for me – to have made it, to have worked so hard and been so blessed with the family I have and the jobs I worked, to have been prayed for and encouraged. God taught me, many times, to make peace with the unknown. It is probably one of my most prominent weaknesses, and yet He has so lovingly and so grace-fully held my hand through it all. He is a God who stands with us in our weaknesses, never holding it against us when we fail to trust. He is a God with so much grace to give that even we, with all our failings, will never wear out His supply.

My time at Cedarville has taught me to think critically about what I believe – in perhaps different ways than one might expect. I have struggled with my faith in good and true and difficult ways, learned to embrace doubt and mystery and yet still to believe and to trust. I have learned that there are many things that are called Christian that I do not believe are consistent with the Way of Jesus. I have learned that I care deeply for the full equality and inclusion of women in church life – because I have seen and felt the tremors left by a segment of the Church who thinks differently than I do. I have discovered the true meaning of boldness: To be bold is not to preach at people, but to love them, sit with them, jump into hard discussions with them, and hear their own stories. It is to tell my own story truthfully. It is to hold hands with the ones around us and walk straight into the fog of life, heads held high. It is to affirm the unique gifts, callings, abilities, and voices of all people. It is to speak Truth, and do so with love. Only ever love.

I have found some of the truest, wisest, brightest, kindest, silliest, most loving friends in the world over these last few years. I’ve become friends with brilliant professors, been mentored by women and men I want to grow up to be like. I’ve had fights and arguments and I’ve listened to sermons that have made my blood boil. I have been challenged and mystified and humbled. I discovered my passions. I tried new things. I met my best friend and I love him to pieces.

My time at Cedarville has been four of the best years of my life. Four of the hardest, scariest, busiest, most stressful, best years of my life. If I could go back and redo it all, I wouldn’t change a thing. God has changed me in more ways than I could explain with words – more ways than I think I even know.

I first heard of the “Cedarville bubble” at the end of the Admissions DVD back in high school. A student who played guitar mentioned it. He said

Methinks hereafter to find myself a way to breach the bubble of Cedarville: to tread far and wide beyond the lake.

I didn’t fully understand it at the time, because I didn’t yet know the impact Cedarville would have on me, in many ways. But it sounded pretty, and I liked to write down pretty words. So I wrote it on the first page of a notepad shaped like Belle’s dress from Beauty and the Beast. And I remember thinking to myself, this will mean something more one day.

Today, I know what it means. It means that now, I get to walk away. I get to carry all the joy and sorrow and freedom and stress and lessons and loves – I get to store it all away in my heart, take the good, make peace with the bad, and walk away from Cedarville. Prepared. Joyful. Whole. Fearless.

It’s easier said than done. But God has grace enough for us yet. He is faithful. We can trust Him.