The all-student Convocation is held during the first week of a new Academic year. This year the all Convocation was held on Wednesday, September 3. As part of the presenters, Lydia Flynn who is a student in the John Wesley Honors College at IWU shared a message in response to the message Dr. Dawson shared with the student body.
Lydia is a member of the Class of 2016. She has been a guest author of the John Wesley Honors College blog.
This is what was shared. Take time to pause and reflect on the message that is embedded in this article.
From Lydia Flynn:
Dr. Dawson has reminded us that learning is beneficial, both for individuals and for society as a whole. As we dedicate ourselves to our learning, we should reflect on our approach to this vocation. Our student body will accomplish impressive things during this school year. We will study theological doctrines and economic concepts, the relationship between color theory and emotion. We’ll describe biological processes and solve differential equations. Some of us will complete research projects, and others will become published authors. These are great successes to aspire to and to celebrate. But it is in the midst of this performance environment—within the mentality of achievements and grades, of personal competencies and professional development—that we may place too much focus on ourselves. We may easily forget the reality that true learning, indeed, the best kind of learning, cannot occur removed from God and from each other.
If we are honest about our accomplishments, we will recognize that nothing we achieve this year can be credited entirely to ourselves. To quote writer C.J. Mahaney, “every time I claim to be the ‘author’… of that which is actually God’s gift, I’m committing cosmic plagiarism.” When we take sole credit for an accomplishment, whether before others or within the privacy of our own minds, we effectively ignore the role of the God of the universe. Perhaps we would not behave so proudly if we truly understood our dependence on God – for we could not even exist without God’s loving creation of each one of us. This pride contests God’s supremacy; we deny our dependence on God and seek to elevate ourselves to His position as the Creator of all good things.
This year, whether we create visual art, musical performances, poetry, lesson outlines, foreign-language compositions, or care plans, we should keep in mind that everything we produce utilizes the resources which God has already given us. No matter what our task, we always start with something: physical materials, our minds, our creativity, or the input of others. As Bruce Ellis Benson describes in his book Liturgy as a Way of Life, we are simply unable to create “out of nothing” as God can. We never truly create anything, but find ourselves merely improvising on the material and immaterial gifts which God has provided. This knowledge reminds us of who deserves ultimate praise in all the wonderful things this campus will accomplish.
In addition to our dependence on God, humility requires us to accept our reliance on other people. We owe credit to other people for successes we consider to be our own. By incorporating skills, knowledge, and experiences that have been developed and shared with us by others, we use gifts they have passed on to us.
As we remember that we are not truly independent in our work, I hope that we can improve some of the tendencies we bring to learning. We may think of our courses as venues for competition between individual students, and many of us pride ourselves on having the best ideas, the highest grades, or the busiest schedules. But we can choose a different way of learning together. Rather than competing, we can create an edifying experience of supporting and encouraging one another. Indiana Wesleyan holds opportunities to continue learning from others within our academics as well as beyond our coursework. Being surrounded by a community of Christians offers us a unique environment to learn something together that is far more difficult than anything else we will attempt this year: how to more fully love God and our neighbors. Of course, we will take different paths to carry out our Christian calling, but sharing one goal, we can explore this mission together.
Anyone who has experienced life outside of a thriving Christian community, as some of us here today have, can appreciate what a blessing it is to live among practicing Christians. This type of environment provides us the opportunity to study specific disciplines within the context of our faith. As we pursue our education together, we should be able to recognizing more fully how little we understand. Yet even those of us who have been isolated from fellow believers probably do not give thanks often enough for this community. Yes, we should seek outside perspectives, and yes, we must engage in the world beyond this university, but that does not mean we ought to reject the blessing of the faithful examples around us. I myself constantly struggle with pride, but I have learned from fellow Christians, especially on this campus, how to combat it, and I am thankful for their influence on my life.
While our student body is largely Christian, that fact does not excuse us to alienate those who believe differently. Actually, it demands the opposite. We are called to welcome those with differences from us, for God loves in the midst of all our differences. If we love others as God loves them, we do redemptive work in the relationships we develop and build God’s Kingdom on Earth. This calling is not an easy one. We know we should reflect Christ’s all-encompassing love, yet we struggle with loving people we would rather marginalize or even hate. Here, too, humility should impact our hearts and minds. If our perfect God loves these people, who are we to reject them? Thus humility calls us to reconcile our relationships with others.
This mission, loving God and neighbor while living humbly beside those in our community, is the most difficult challenge we will face this year. It has a great deal to do with our minds—our intellect can serve as a foundation for love toward God and other people. By working to better understand God and the reality surrounding us, we lay the groundwork for the devotion that follows in our hearts. As we contemplate God’s omnipotence and astonishing love for humanity, we will not only find ourselves humbled in the face of God’s holiness, but our love can also grow deeper. For those of us who are new to Christian fellowship and for those of us who grew up among Christians, let us rely on the community of this campus as we share our experiences, skills, and love of God and humanity with all those we encounter.
Finally, as we begin this academic year, let us commit ourselves to humility. May this attitude lead us to glorify Christ, acknowledge those who support us, and love God and our neighbors. Thank you.