Recently I have decided with rhe help of my family and friends that it is not in my best interests to return to Denison University for another two years. I plan on transferring to either Ohio State or the The Universitt of Cincinnati. I would rather take 2.5 or 3 more years and be healthy and happy than 2 and be miserable. Maybe I won’t graduate college until I am 24, but oh well. I have found that Denison is an unhealthy environment for me mentally, spiritually, emotionally and socially. I have given Denison many opportunities and considered transferring twice before, but I now feel that I have exhausted all hope for holistic success at Denison. Denison was ultimately not a good for for me and looking back it hasn’t been since day one. I have no interest in criticizing the university, as it is a good place for many, but merely reflecting on my experiences and God’s sovereignty in my life and education.
After a summer with Cru in Chicago I have realized my need for a healthy Christian community a solid church and biblical counseling. I have realized that I can read all the Tim Keller books and Gospel Coalition articles in the world and remain spiritually dry and unhealthy. I have realized I am not strong enough to do it alone. I am thankful for the Christian community I found at Denison as I do not know how I would have made it through the time I did without that, but it did not fit what I needed in this stage in my life. Denison Christian Community (DCC) as an organization is both small and rather new and undeveloped. I hope it continues to grow and succeed but as someone struggling myself to believe the gospel, I was unable to flourish in that environment. As for the church, I really do appreciate Christ Redeemer and love the pastor there Matt Parker, who preaches the gospel as well as I have heard it preached, but the size of the church, 30 people on a good Sunday, combined with the lack of Christian community did not bode well for me to spiritually grow. The combination of these left me feeling very isolated. In addition, after meeting with many Christians this summer who struggle with similar mental health issues, I realized the necessity of biblical counseling for battling depression.
All this said, I think going through the experiences I have at Denison was necessary for my development spiritually and socially and emotionally. Coming out of high school I was far more concerned with my running performance than my relationship with God. I was not in a place to go to a Christian college (I was looking at a couple small Christian colleges to run at) and grow dramatically in my faith. I believe I would have not received the benefits of that experience. I also feel that I needed to realize the destruction of my idolatry of my running to both my mental and spiritual health. My freshman year consisted of me running a lot, starving myself and lying in my bed on the weekends to tired and concerned with my running performance to do anything socially. I would go to DCC prayer meetings every once in a while, but never consistently attended any events or became active in the community. I wanted a Christian community but didn’t take the time or effort to invest in it. I think I went to church only once that year.
I considered transferring at the end of the year, but decided to return after a successful track season. That summer I was injured and unable to compete the entire cross country season. I was only permitted to use the stationary bike and elliptical. This stressed me out greatly as I was paranoid about getting out of shape. Naturally I biked as much as possible and ate as little as possible. I would often spend 3 hours or more in the rec center biking and lifting. I lived at the gym. Finally I was healthy again, but soon after I injured myself again. I had to do the the process of biking again.
Over that winter break the doctor I was seeing prescribed me a different medication than the one I had been taking. That lead to some weird side effects and then withdrawal after. That combined with being mentally in a terrible state I decided to take the semester off. It was during that semester that I finally realized that running cross country and track was destroying my life. Well, I knew it was for a while, but I finally came to terms with it. I quit and decided to transfer. Then I decided not to transfer because maybe Denison would be better without the stress of running.
That fall I got more involved in Denison Christian Community (loosely affiliated with Cru) which was nice. I do like a lot of the people who are involved in it. I do have a lot of great memories from that year, but overall I was unable to find the structured community I needed to get through this time in my life. I was able to lead a bible study and give a talk at out monthly meeting called Encounter, both of which were cool. At the end of year I went home excited to come back in the fall to build the movement. While in Chicago I I fell in love with 67 people. (Is that weird to say???? Oh well, it’s true.) I was pointed to the cross and loved in a way that I have never experienced before. I realized how wonderful and down right absurdly magnificent of a community His Holy Nation is. While nothing will ever compare to this experience, I realized that I needed something different and needed a change in my life. I needed a larger community, a church that I can be connected to and biblical counseling.
Oh yeah, God’s sovereignty. You can chalk it all up to coincidence if you would like. Heck, I don’t even believe what I am about to write half the time. I believe, Lord help my unbelief. But, if there is a perfectly good and holy God then they most certainly aren’t. God promises to turn all of my sin and suffering into my good. If I never would have run in high school, I never would have met my friend Sam and many other of my best friends. (Just to be clear a large part of me loved the sport and I have great memories.) I never would have gone to Denison. If I never went to Denison who knows if I would have ever gotten involved with Cru. I probably never would have ended up in Chicago this summer. If this all what God used to lead me to himself then it was all worth it. I don’t know that I would say that I would do it all over again, because it was often miserable, but as Bonhoeffer says “there is meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveler.” I am sure there are even more reasons that I had to go through everything I have that I don’t have the slightest clue about. John Piper says “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.” And this gives me hope that when I feel hopeless in the future, which will no doubt happen many more times, I can look back at how God worked the past 3 years for my good. And in heaven I will be able to laugh at how little these afflictions compare to the glory I will experience for eternity.