Well, here we are, at the beginning of another school year. For some of you reading this blog, it is your first fall at Harvard, and you are filled with excitement looking at the seemingly endless possibilities stretching before you. For others of you (like myself), it is your last fall at Harvard, and sleep drags you away from every day kicking and screaming, knowing that every second brings you closer to being forced to leave this place and go out into the Real World (or grad school, but that’s another story). Or maybe you’re somewhere in the middle, rather sick of Harvard and already dreaming of winter break, when there will be no homework and the weather will be blessedly cold. No matter where you are in your Harvard career, I have three pieces of advice for you—New Year’s Resolutions, as it were, for the new school year.
- Don’t panic. This is especially important for freshmen and seniors, because everyone around you is going to be panicking very soon, and it is horrifyingly easy to be sucked into running around like a chicken with your head cut off if everyone else is feelingly describing the bite of the axe. But don’t do it! Paul writes, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phillipians 4:6). The two halves of this verse are equally important. We are told not to be anxious about anything—after all, God who takes care of sparrows and wildflowers will surely take care of us—but then we are told how to not panic, which is easier said than done. We aren’t just left to put our concerns out of mind through strength of will; we are invited to bring our petitions to God, and to do so thankfully. Practically, I have found that thanking God for things really does help, even in my darkest moments. When it feels that everything is awful, try thanking God for what you do have; I think you’ll be surprised by how much it helps.
- Take time this year to learn something new about Christian life from someone who knows more than you do. This can take many forms: regularly talking to an older Christian, reading a book about Biblical exegesis, being more serious about listening to sermons in church, and maybe asking questions after the service. If you’re stuck on where to begin, I highly recommend reading N.T. Wright’s Justification. For a while now I’ve been in a rut when reading the Epistles; I was just familiar enough with them that nothing really jumped out at me as being shocking, but not familiar enough with them that I could really explain what they meant for my life, other than giving a rather vague and general description of Christian belief. Justification changed all that; Wright goes through much of Galatians and Romans in detail, and touches on other parts of the Epistles, all the time insisting on keeping Paul’s context in mind and following his argument, rather than just scrutinizing disembodied verses and trying to make them be only about our burning questions. I’m excited to go back to Paul, now, because I think that I will have new eyes to see what he’s really doing.
- Come to Ichthus pub nights. Really, if you don’t come, you’ll be sorry you missed them. The staff, writers, and friends of the Ichthus gather weekly to relax, have fun together, and talk about everything under the sun; really, where else can you go straight from discussing Lady Gaga to talking about the Fall in Genesis 3? If you haven’t had enough intellectual conversations in your life recently, this is the place for you; if you haven’t had enough laughter, you are similarly advised to come. If you have burning questions about Christianity, or want to be part of a wonderful Christian community, or just don’t have very much exciting to do on Saturday nights, pub nights are for you. Make a resolution to come at least once this semester; you won’t regret that you did.