Four years ago this fall the Torrey Honors Institute of Biola University implemented a curriculum of the great literary classics that was thematic in its approach as opposed to being a chronological reading of the texts. My job as professor in Torrey was the result of the creation of this new “house,” named after the great scholar of law and defender of the Christian faith: Phil Johnson. So, in the fall of 2005, about 35 students arrived on Biola’s campus ready to be the guinea pigs of this new curriculum. Their mentor during this season: me. Skip head to today where about 80% of these students will, in less than three weeks, walk across the stage and be rewarded for their hard work. In the past four years, I’ve gotten to know most of these students very well and we’ve had many good times, both in the classroom and outside the classroom. I wanted to use this space to say to each one of them: “Thanks, it’s been a privilege being your mentor!” More importantly, I want them to know that I’ve learned from them as much (if not more) than they’ve learned from me. The greatest lessons I have learned from these students:
1) Work hard. These students are some of the hardest working people I know. They go well above and beyond anything that is asked of them and they mostly do it with a minimum of complaint. Though many of them will need to sleep for two straight months to make up for the sleep deprivation they’ve experienced in the past four years, this sacrifice is a great testimony to their resolve and drive for excellence (with perhaps a smattering of perfectionism and neuroses).
2) Be transparent. I’ve spent many office hours with these students and they are oftentimes more about their personal lives than their academic lives. I’ve sat with these students as they’ve mourned the loss of loved ones, lamented broken relationships, been honest about their academic failures and when they simply just needed to complain to someone about something. In an age when we’re tempted to paint the early 20-somethings into box labeled “Unable to relate emotionally due to the influence of impersonal media and gadgetry,” these students have shown me that they too have honest struggles and care as much about life and love and God as their grandparents.
3) Love God. One of my own faults is that I’m often too jaded and cynical about many things, including God’s church. These students, however, have shown me repeatedly that the Christian faith and God’s church is something to live for and, if necessary, to die for. From musicians who understand that their talents are not their own but are a gift of God to pre-med majors who want to use their medical training on the mission field (and all points between), these students understand that life must be lived for God. Period!
4) Be humble. Individually and collectively, these students are an amazingly gifted group of young men and women. In fact, most of them are well beyond me academically. Yet, for four years, they have allowed me to be their feeble guide. When my advice was not necessarily helpful, they still managed to write good papers. When my class leadership lacked, they carried the discussion forward, ensuring that learning was, in fact, happening. And they’ve done this with a humility that is humbling.
In short, it has been a good, no, a great four years! It has been my privilege to work with each of them. Thanks Johnson House class of 2009 and may the “Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”