Outlook College Partnership Award winning essay by WHITNEY RANEY
I was sitting in my advisor’s office a couple of weeks ago on the edge of a meltdown. Another article had been published that morning — one of the ones that makes me want to scream or cry or both. It was detailing the stories of more undocumented North Carolina families who had been recently separated by deportations. My friends were being deported, and I was upset because I couldn’t figure out what I am supposed to do with my life next year.
In applying for jobs I kept coming back to the frustration and passion that I felt around issues of injustice that I see in my own state. I couldn’t shake the feeling of obligation to stay here and do something about it. At some point in the middle of this outburst of debate my professor stopped me and asked, “Do you know what your problem is?”
I blabbered something about the fact that I am graduating in a couple of months, and although I have a pretty good idea about what I want my life to look like, I don’t know what I should do next year.
“No,” he responded. “You’re just too darn Presbyterian.”
He’s a Presbyterian minister, so I guess he’s allowed to say that. But it didn’t necessarily help my qualms about what I was being called to do. Sometimes I think that he overestimates my knowledge of Presbyterian theology, but his point was a good one. He told me that these doubts and my struggles are good problems and they are very much in line with my Reformed tradition. My education at a Presbyterian college has allowed me not only to critically consider the world and the actors and the inequalities that are present in it, but also to consider where I stand in that world and what my role is in those injustices. Using these concerns and an awareness of the world and the mission to bring heaven to earth, I look for my calling. I am deeply concerned about how my faith and my life are related and what my responsibilities are to those around me, something that the church and my school teaches is very much a part of what my purpose is.
Recently, I had to articulate why I was drawn to the non-profit work that I have been involved in. Although it didn’t seem entirely professional to me, I had to answer through the lens of my faith and my Christian tradition. My education has shown me that everything I do is framed through my ultimate understanding of who God is. Being a missionary to the world means more than being employed by the church. It means more than going to seminary or becoming a minister. It means living every day through the light of my faith and that I can be whatever I am called to be, as long as I am good at it and I approach it through the goal of living out the gospel message in the world.
In a religion class that I took my freshman year, we read an essay by Calvin that talked about Christian vocation. I am an anthropology and Latin American studies major, and although those two might not seem explicitly related to faith, I see them as being very much a direct extension of it. The Calvinist tradition challenges us to engage in the world and be the hands and feet of Jesus in our own societies. The ways that I engage and the feelings of frustration or of responsibility that I feel called to are intimately connected to my understanding of my Christian tradition and to the way that it has been nurtured throughout my college experience in what I have studied.
I still don’t know where I will be living next year or where my life will ultimately take me, but I know that it will take me to a place where I am engaged in the world as a missionary and as a Christian.
WHITNEY RANEY, a recent graduate of Davidson College, grew up in Wilmington, N.C. She now is living in Merida, Mexico, where she is serving with Funación Haciendas del Mundo Maya developing projects related to public health and nutrition.