October 27, 2010

Lessons Learned

*DISCLAIMER: I have debated whether to even write on this topic, knowing that it is such a strong source of contention, emotion, and passion, but God has used this situation to teach me and make me much for thankful, and I felt I needed to share.  Please know that I am sharing what I have learned and that I am not intending to force these lessons on others.  God has given us all brains and a free will to make our own decisions, and He has lessons for each of us to learn.  My lesson may not be your lesson!  As you read, please bear in mind that I am not condemning, accusing, or looking down on anyone who may not share my opinion or feel the importance of the lesson I have learned.  I would prefer that no one comment, mainly because I know it could turn ugly quickly, but, as I stated before, God has given you a free will and I cannot control whether or not you comment.  But, I do ask that if you comment, keep it short, uplifting, and in an attitude of love.  If you have strong feelings against what I have to say, feel free to email or FB message me rather than write a comment so as not to start an argument.  Thanks for listening to the thoughts of an overly dramatic 30-something and may God bless your day!

OK, so, here goes.....As most of you know, yesterday the vote passed to change the name of my collegiate Alma mater, Hannibal-LaGrange College, to Hannibal-LaGrange University.  If you are an alum, faculty or staff member, member of the MBC, or Hannibal resident, you know this has been a HUGE issue over the past few months.  I have to admit that when I heard they were wanting to change the name (to University of Hannibal), I got very angry very quickly!  I was so mad I could hardly see straight, though I wasn't upset for the same reason as most.  I mean, change the name, that's great, but all I could think was, "Really?  Of all the things that you could spend what little money you have on, you choose a name change?  You must be kidding!"  Let's face it, we all know the college is far from being over-run with too much money floating around and I couldn't help but think that if they would first spend the money on their programs, then a name change, they would not only bring in more students, but actually keep more students!  And, if I am going to be totally honest, the thought of the words "Hannibal" and "University" being used together, in any combination, was totally laughable to me.  There is just nothing about Hannibal that makes it a "University" town!  So, I sat down and wrote a letter (though, I didn't sign my name, I was just too chicken.  I know too many people there was too afraid one of them would pick up a phone and confront me and I HATE confrontation!)  Shortly thereafter, madness erupted!  Accusations were flying.  Voices were being raised.  Friendships were demolished.  All over the name of an institution of higher education that only has about 1,500 students.  What in the world was happening!?!?!?!?!

It was then that God began to convict me about my pride and attitude.  First of all, I was making judgments and assumptions without having all the facts.  In fact, I was making them without having many facts at all!  As I began to dig deeper, several of my assumptions were proven wrong and I began to see just how much I was rushing to judgment.  I don't work there.  I don't visit campus, other than the mail room occasionally.  I don't know even a fraction of the students.  I don't know what's happening on campus or in the classrooms.  I really have no idea what is best for the school.  I was only focusing on what I wanted, what I thought would look good.  Second, the attitude with which I was sharing my opinion was far from Godly!  I just wanted to feel important, let my voice be heard, and let people know that I indeed had an opinion on the matter!  I mean really, who cares what little ole me has to say on the matter!  What was I thinking?  But, I think the biggest lesson I learned was to be grateful and thankful for all the Lord has given me.  He got me thinking back to my days as a student and staff member there.  What was it that made HLG so special to me?  What was it that made me want to return as a staff member after 4 years as a student?  Was it the name?  NO!  It was the people!  Honestly, I could have probably gotten just as good of an education, maybe even better, somewhere else.  Most people at any given college/university can probably say that!  What made my experience so different?  What endeared that place to me so much?  The people!!!  Most of the staff and faculty truly saw their jobs as ministry.  They asked for prayer requests, prayed for you, kept up with you, checked in on you, and poured themselves into you on a daily basis!  The friends I made there have been friends for life.  We may not talk in months, but in one short 5 minute chat, it's as if we've been together every day for the last 10 years!  I can still pick up the phone anytime I need advice or prayer and call any one of those great friends!  The most important lessons I learned didn't come in a classroom.  They came in the living room of a faculty member taking care of a grief-stricken, ill student.  They came in the lobby of an old, decrepit theatre with some of my best friends.  They came in a van with 7 or 8 other people as we spent the school year and summer traveling the country using drama to share Christ with others.  They came in great conversations with a great friend sitting in Taco Bell.  They came while chatting with the wife of a faculty member who loved her husband's students every bit as much as he did.  They came in watching faculty members turn what could have been paralyzing loss into honor and glory for God alone.  That is what I remember.  That is the education I got.  That is what I needed to be thankful for!  You see, no matter the name, those faculty and staff members, those experiences with other students are awaiting what I hope is thousands of other students to come, regardless of the name.  You know, I think I would have still had those same life-changing experiences even if the name had been Muddy Mississippi College of River Rats because God is bigger than any name conceived by man!  Hallelujah!  And really, in the midst of all this, God really pressed upon me His sovereignty.  He was there when they founded the college in LaGrange in 1858.  He was there when they moved the college to Hannibal and only kept LaGrange in the name to appease those who didn't want the college to move in the first place.  He was there when they wanted to close the doors and focus on the campus in STL instead.  He was there when fire nearly destroyed the campus.  He was there when they began discussing changing the name, again.  He was there when the Haiti team went rolling down a hill. He was there yesterday when the vote happened.  He knew.  He saw.  And none of it happened apart from His hand.  Now, whether the name change and switch from U of H to HLG-U was God redirecting His people to His path or God, like when His people cried out for a king and, though He knew it would destroy them, gave them what they asked for anyway, God was turning His people over to their own free will, I don't know and I don't know that it even matters.  All I know is, I love that college, I love the lessons I learned there, I love the people I met there, and I hope my kids go there someday and have the same great experience I had!  Most of all, I pray that God will pour out His Spirit on that campus in a mighty way!  May He greatly effect every soul that steps foot on that campus.  May He use that campus to change the world and may He get all the glory and honor!

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