On Mother’s Day, exactly one week and 2 days ago, I graduated from Wheaton College with a Bachelor’s of Music Pedagogy degree. I walked across a stage to accept a folder with a fake diploma in it. Apparently, this was the culmination of my 5 years at Wheaton College. It was the public declaration of the work, time, and money I had put into my education up to this point. To culminate is to reach a climax or point of highest development, according to google. For some, graduation is this point in my education, the highest point of my development, but for me, I would disagree.
Graduation was a celebration of my hard work for the past 5 years. The frustrations, the ups, the downs, the As and yes, the failures. I made it (aside from 2 credits), maybe not how I intended to “make it”, but how God intended me to. Honestly, Wheaton taught me so much, this short little blog post would never be able to encapsulate the extent of what I learned. But this is just a tribute to the lessons God taught me through Wheaton.
5 years at Wheaton College taught me what an augmented fourth is, who Erik Satie is, and a lot of other stuff I didn’t know. It taught me that music is so vast, I could dedicate my whole life to study it and still wouldn’t reach the ends of the subject. It taught me that performance isn’t about playing something perfectly, but rather playing something with intention. Wheaton far exceeded my academic expectations. But Wheaton College taught me so much more than that.
This could get really cliche, so I apologize. I came into Wheaton with many ideas about life, I was still a deep thinker like I am today, but I looked and searched for answers. I wanted black and white solutions to gray problems. Wheaton taught me that there are not a lot of straight black and white answers in the world. Wheaton taught me to sit in the questions and be ok with not finding answers. Wheaton challenged me to think about reality in a different way, and I still continue to be challenged by that.
Living with friends caused me to understand what true love actually is. Love is when you forgive and continue to give without questions. Love is an action that takes work, active consistent work. It taught me love has to be accompanied by grace in so many ways. Living with friends showed me what Godly relationships look like. It showed me how to trust people in ways I wasn’t ever able to before. It showed me the value of what a good friend is, someone who is there no matter what. Who will travel to see someone, to celebrate, or to grieve. Despite how horribly forced “intentional community” (a phrase every Wheaton College student would cringe at) is, it taught me what community actually is. Maybe through failed attempts, but community honestly can’t be forced. It showed me the church is far bigger than I ever thought, has a purpose, and is often wrong in the way we approach the world. It showed me the Bible is not the center of a relationship with Christ, but Christ is the center of a relationship with him.
Wheaton taught me that God’s plans are much, much, bigger than the plans Wheaton College has set out for its graduates. God’s plans are so much greater than anything I could’ve expected to come out of Wheaton College with. It taught me that God has made me and my mind beautiful in so many ways that one academic area could never measure the beauty he created within me. Intelligence can’t be measured, and neither can hard work. Wheaton taught me that yes, I am not the best at what I do, but rather there are unique strengths I have and the combination of them can make me the best in an are that I work towards. I learned that no, I can not become anything I’ve ever wanted to be despite what the culture has taught me to believe all my life. I learned that I can work hard at something and not be as good at it as other areas.
Wheaton taught me that good grades aren’t what make you valuable. For some at Wheaton, this is probably one of the hardest lessons to learn. For me, it was pretty easy. I felt very out of place at Wheaton from the beginning because I was very aware of the population around me. I was aware of their apparent strengths and abilities and it made me very aware of my weaknesses and failures. But Wheaton College taught me that I can learn so much more from my failures sometimes than my successes. My failures are what made me a stronger person and taught me to persevere. It is what gives me the confidence to say I earned my degree at Wheaton College, it wasn’t handed to me. I worked my butt off to receive the credits I received and I’m proud of my failures and my struggles. Just because I fail doesn’t mean I can’t do it.
In some ways failure could define my time at Wheaton College but I’m very certain it isn’t. There is so much more to life than academics and good grades. I made some of the deepest and greatest relationships I have ever made at Wheaton College. I grew in my own independence and thinking as well. Most importantly, I learned so much about the God who created me. I learned about his faithfulness, his provision, and his deep, satisfying, unconditional love for me that no one else can offer me like Him. I learned to trust him in areas of my life that were painful to release.
In many ways the culmination of my education at Wheaton was my entire 5 years there. The process and change that God brought me through at Wheaton has given me hope and promise for the rest of my life. It made me deeply long for heaven sometimes, and it also made me deeply long for this world and it’s brokenness. But Wheaton has taught me who God is and who he created me to be and I am grateful for that. I thank God for the opportunity to graduate from Wheaton College, but more importantly, I thank God for what he taught me through Wheaton College. He is good and he will forever be good.