I did not take the typical route to what most people know, today, as Timothy. While my roots date back to Timothy’s Cicero campus during my kindergarten year, circumstances led me to attend public school for many years following, before I eventually ended up at Timothy’s Elmhurst campus for high school. This contrast in education, and all that it entails, has given me a particular appreciation for Christian education in general, but especially a Timothy education. The eight years that I spent in public school were not necessarily bad, but sometimes you don’t know what you’re missing until you have what your heart was longing for.
When I arrived at Timothy during my freshman year I, thankfully, came in with some pretty strong friendships already in place. My family had been attending Faith Christian Reformed Church for years and I looked forward to the opportunity to deepen some of the friendships that had formed through regular Sunday worship, Cadets, Catechism class, etc. What I didn’t expect was to have these friendships breathe new life into my faith, because of the space that Timothy provided for that to happen.
My faith leading up to my freshman year had been solid, but untested – I came from a Christian family and the truths and disciplines of the Christian life had been ingrained in me for as long as I could remember. However, there was something uniquely transformative about walking into a place where your peers were no longer under the eyes of their parents, and to see them genuinely walk out their faith when given the space to do so. It was powerful to see people – peers and teachers – owning, enjoying and expressing their faith in everything that they did, whether it be chapel, or just in the way that students interacted with each other in the hallways. It wasn’t always perfect -nothing in this world is! – but it strived to be authentic, a marked difference from my previous experience.
I never considered myself an artistic person, so I was also shocked to find myself loving and participating in the musicals at Timothy. Unlike at the public school that I came from, where the arts were perfunctory and more of a requirement than an enjoyment for most people, at Timothy the arts were taught as one of the most intimate ways of expressing your faith. So, when I took part in the school’s performance of “The Pirates of Penzance,” there was freedom to know that it was ok to just enjoy it, which I thoroughly did, because I learned that I was ultimately performing for an audience of One. And, while I never took to sports, I witnessed the same positive attitude on the athletic field that I did on the stage because, as I learned, it was the same Spirit influencing everything.
Perhaps one of my most defining memories at Timothy came during a time when a friend experienced a crisis that required me to seek resources beyond my own. Compassion is a virtue that Timothy had instilled in me above almost any other, but this experience led me to realize that God might have uniquely wired me to serve Him in a compassion-based profession. So, when my time at Timothy came to a close, the natural next step was to go to Calvin College to further cultivate this calling. For me, going to Calvin was a natural extension of Timothy. It was more than just a logical next step, it was what I desired because I wanted more of what Timothy had given me.
Since Calvin and an MSW in social work from Western Michigan University, I have now spent close to 30 years of my life as a counselor, first in private practice and then as a crisis response counselor. Through my work, I have witnessed and responded directly to some of the most horrific circumstances: 9/11, Sandy Hook, the Orlando nightclub shooting, Hurricane Katrina, and much more. When walking into these situations, I never feel adequate or completely prepared. However, I have learned from my years at Timothy that I do not have to, because I’m not. It’s not expertise that counts, it’s a willingness to be open to the Spirit’s leading. I am only a vessel who needs to show up and say, “God work through me.”