August 6, 2010The following letter was sent from a senior Crane Scholar reflecting on his experience with the Crane Scholars Program. It is shared here with his permission.
Dear Dr. Davis,
I apologize that this letter is not making its way to you in the most timely manner. But attempting to summarize in a brief letter my experience with Crane Scholars is quite the task, even after having had previously the opportunity to speak on this very topic. How can I hope to adequately express the enormous impact this program has had on my life, when I myself have difficulty sorting out the different ways I have been affected by it?
I suppose it makes sense to start with the materials we read and viewed during my time in the program. Each book or film shaped me in some way—rather, I should say I believe God shaped me through each—but I shall only focus on a few. One of the first things we read was a collection of writings on vocation (or Callings
, as the book was titled), which included contributions from Genesis through to contemporary authors. I mention this book because it really served to kick-start the whole process of seeing my education and later career as more than just means for earning a living. Rather, these things are aspects of God's unified, unique calling for my life. Discerning that calling is sometimes difficult and is always a lifelong process. But one of the things that has encouraged me most in that regard is a particular passage from Callings
. The passage is an excerpt from the writings of the Desert Fathers. The story goes that a young novitiate approached his superior about difficulties he was having hearing God. His superior commended him to a period of prayer and fasting, at the conclusion of which the novitiate was to return and report on the experience. The novitiate obeyed and returned as planned, only to relate that he was having just as much difficulty as previously. His superior said that he still struggled with hearing from God, as well, and that the novitiate should return when his years of serving the community equaled the superior's more than forty. The novitiate left encouraged.
I am going to compose a rather enormous letter if I keep at this rate, so I will try to embrace brevity (it is the soul of wit, after all). One of the other main things that struck a chord with me was conviction due to the number of false dichotomies that had developed in my thinking and practice. What I mean by false dichotomies is dissociations of vitally inter-related concepts. I began to recognize, largely through several of the books we read (e.g. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind
and The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship
), drastically incompatible beliefs or mindsets that permeate our western culture, most notable being society's tacit acceptance of the distinctions between faith & reason and fact & value. And even deeper and more personal than either of these (though very much related), I came face-to-face with the realization that truly loving God involves loving Him with all my heart, soul, strength, and
mind. None of those four can be separated from the others if I am to love God rightly. And when one is out of balance, the others suffer, too.
What else? I encountered one of the most rational and resoundingly true defenses of Christianity and the terrible excitement and power of orthodox faith in Chesterton's Orthodoxy
. In viewing Babette's Feast
, I encountered the beauty of friendship and sacrifice that can result in a shared meal being far more than a meal, subtly hinting at the magnitude of another Supper celebrated under similar circumstances. I saw truly beautiful relationships in the aptly titled film Bella
. Reading Intellectual Appetite
immediately, thoroughly, and irrevocably changed my vocabulary and thinking to the language of gift; that is, seeing the world around me, my gifts and talents, and my own abilities to even act, choose, or reason as pure gifts of God. I don't even have the possibility of choosing to love Him without His own enabling!
I could go on, but it needs to be stated that the truly magical part of this program came not just from reading books and viewing films but from doing these things in the company of faculty members and fellow students who desperately love and are seeking to follow Christ. Books and films can have impacts, but rarely do they stay with us unless we share them with other people, talking through different layers of richness noticed by some and overlooked by others, fleshing out subtleties of meaning, and learning how to apply those things learned to life. One of the things I most desired in coming to Baylor was developing relationships with a few of my professors, and then I get involved in a program where professors invite a group of students into their home for a meal and conversation (other instances of meals being much more than meals). I've been blessed with so many godly examples and advisors through the faculty members associated with Crane Scholars. And what can I say about the other students I met? One's my roommate for this year. I attended the wedding of two others. All have made plans to stay in contact as each follows his or her own vocation.
I am so thankful for Crane Scholars, though I feel this letter, in trying to express that, still comes up woefully short. I am so grateful to friends and situations that caused me to become aware of and apply to the program and am especially grateful to those who provide financial support to allow it to operate to begin with. Cranes has been one of if not the best thing I've been a part of in my years at Baylor, and I hope to continue in the same spirit of humility and teachability that it cultivated in me.
Greg Bond, '10