Who Are You?
Who are you?
No, this is not a question posed by a stranger on the street or to the person on the other end of a random call. This is a question asked with the deepest sincerity from someone who walks the same hallways and sidewalks as you and has trod countless steps across the same ground as you. From someone whose face has crossed your path many times throughout the past four years. From someone who has hopefully greeted you with a smile and played a part, however large or small, in your answer to this question.
I have discovered in my 22 years of life that we have developed a formula for how we answer questions. For example, “How are you?” is often greeted with a: “Good. And you?” (or perhaps “tired” is more accurate for college students). There is no honesty here; there’s no connection. I’m happy you’re doing well, but why? What has made this day wonderful? It’s the same case with the first question I wrote; there is rarely any depth or connection. Who are you? On what beliefs, principles, and values do you stand? What passions define you? What experiences have shaped you?
I have asked this question to too few of you, and for that, I apologize. I hope you will still receive my answer to this question and accept my thanks for being part of it.
I am not a product of my circumstances, but I have sought out the lessons that hide within each experience that passes by. Whether good or bad. Whether the tears that were shed were spilled for sorrow or joy, we have much to learn from the world. I grew up in the safe isolation of rural North Dakota, but I rejoice in that because God made it abundantly clear that goodness and love live in this world. Inevitably, though, as God started to send me on travels to see the rest of the world, the reality of depravity quickly made itself known. Satan has not been sleeping for the past 2000 years. No, he has been hard at work, using his agents of darkness to spread evil and corruption in crafty ways. How often have you faced the false dichotomy of choosing the lesser of two evils? This is one such way darkness has spread.
I would be lying if I kept secret a waning hope in the face of my fading naiveté, and a deep sadness set in during these late teenage years. However, an unexpected trip 4000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean to the fishing community of Kilkeel, Northern Ireland restored my fight against the shadows creeping in. Goodness and love revealed themselves once more. On three separate journeys there, I worked alongside the leaders and teens of the JIMS Youth Center, whose mission was to reunite a community and country divided by years of conflict. A centuries-old struggle still wages between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, but pockets of hope exist. Goodness and love still exist; you merely have to open your eyes.
JIMS is one such sanctuary of goodness and love. I owe a debt of gratitude to Emerald Gyuricza (soon to be Buzzell!), for it was her invitation that led to my broadening scope of the world and a clearer, more beautiful perspective on the sovereignty of Christ’s love. You see, a certain life and death 2000 years ago transcends time. The victory won through the soul-crushing burden that Jesus bore for each and every one of us continues to triumph over the darkness of the world today. The bonds that formed in Northern Ireland are a testament to this truth. Yes, we faced adversity both externally and internally, but God worked in spite of the times we succumbed to doubt and fatigue. We were able to breathe life into a community that seemed to be losing it; through a week of simple games, crafts, silly songs, and yard work, we saw people delight in their community again and children radiate the joy that they are meant to. Furthermore, in carrying out this work, an unexpected group of local teenagers and American college students became a family. We couldn’t all identify with one another’s joys and trials, but we were there to laugh and cry with each other, united in our understanding that, though we may not identify with everything the others are facing, Jesus does and rejoices or mourns with each of us.
God flew me 4000 miles away to show me this beauty, but I now see that it is no less evident right here at the University of Jamestown or anywhere else. Several hundred of us have gathered on this plot of land with few prior-known acquaintances, but personally, these years have developed the deepest relationships I’ve ever celebrated. Together, we have reached out to the community, spreading love across the generations. We have also reached out to each other, persevering through our valleys of life, showing one another that some of the most beautiful flowers grow in that valley-shade, and that the most random adventures can create the most precious memories. God has spoken love to me through the people here, putting incredible individuals in my life: friends, brothers, sisters, and if He so wills it, my wife. All of this to briefly share the lessons learned that have made me who I am.
I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I am an ambassador for His love, grace, and compassion. I am a messenger for His good news. I am a shepherd for His people. I don’t seek to deceive you and say that who I am never faces doubt or steps off my foundation, because I am human same as all of you, but I hope you are able to find some of the same victory I do through these words:
1 Thessalonians 5:5 — You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.
Acts 20:28 — Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.
1 Peter 5:8-9 — Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of suffering.
Romans 5:17 — For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!
Now, who are you?