The Victory Keeps Growing

The Victory Keeps Growing

At the beginning of School of the Heart, Tannon told us, “this is the beginning of the rest of your life.” At the time, I did not understand. Sure, I understood logically that School of the Heart was not an isolated three month experience, but the first steps of a journey towards transformation. But I did not really understand, and it did not really resonate with me.

When I left SOTH, it felt like I was dying. I had made incredible friends, learned to love, learned to live! How was I expected to go back to the cruel world of college with its research papers, incessant busyness, and bad dining hall food?

Well, it’s the end of my first semester back at school, and I can say now that I am back in the cruel world, and I am very much alive. My return to college was nothing like I expected. I mean, I knew it would be hard, and it was. I knew I would miss Harrisburg, and I do. But I’m more alive than I’ve ever been.

I think the most amazing thing about life after School of the Heart is that it’s not just three months of accelerated growth. After those three months, those lessons have become a part of you–even the ones you haven’t learned to live out yet–and so you continue to grow long after you’ve left Harrisburg.

As I try to write this, I’ve been thinking through how I’m different than I was before SOTH, and honestly, it’s hard to pinpoint. So many people have told me that I’m different, from some of my dearest friends at church to an old acquaintance I ran into in a coffee shop. They say that I have more peace, more joy, that I’m more mature, that I’m somehow “more me,” and it’s all true. But I think that all of these things boil down to the way that I’ve learned to be a powerful person.

You see, before SOTH, everything and everyone had the ability to drag me around. In many ways, I saw myself as a victim to my circumstances, and not only that, but I didn’t know how to respond to things that upset or hurt me, so I would just shut down. From codependent relationships to my busy schedule, I resented everything, said no to nothing, and put my heart on the back burner. I lived my whole life with a paralyzing fear of failure as my driving force. However, at School of the Heart, all of that changed.

There was a moment on the Prayer Retreat when I realized that I had spent my whole life believing that I wasn’t supposed to exist. If I shouldn’t exist, then I certainly couldn’t take ownership of my life or make powerful choices. In relationships, I would hide, try to be someone else, or let the other person control me. Even in my most vulnerable states, I was more performing a version of myself rather than BEING myself. However, in that moment, God showed me that I WAS supposed to exist. I was not some mistake nor some scourge of the earth that had to hide her true self in order to be loved.

From that moment, it has been a slow but beautiful process of change. I discovered that healing is not the moment when the lies stop feeling true, but the daily choice to stand up against them. I learned that I am responsible for myself, and I can influence the world around me. I learned to value character really highly, even to the point where I sometimes celebrate the painful process of character growth. I learned to trust God and be patient in the process of growth and healing, because He is faithful to love us through it all.

Now that I’m nearing the end of my first semester after School of the Heart, my daily rhythms look pretty different than they used to. I make sacrifices in one area to give something to another area rather than feeling like a dried-up sponge that college is trying to squeeze the last bit of moisture from. Sometimes, that means sacrificing sleep or schoolwork time to invest in my friends, which is, of course countercultural on a college campus. Sometimes, it means saying no to things that I enjoy in order to be faithful to my schoolwork. Other times, it means saying no to everything in order to honor my body with a good night’s sleep. The biggest difference is that I’m the one making the choices.

I love the relationships that I have now. It’s amazing how much deeper your friendships can go when you’re voluntarily bringing your heart to the table rather than somehow expecting the other person to pull your heart out of you. I invest in my relationships by spending time with people, and I’m intentional about scheduling quality time with people, because in college, that’s sometimes the only way it will ever happen.

More than anything, I am now living my life from a solid foundation. I trust God, I’m building a beautiful friendship with Him, and I know that I know that I know that I am loved. I am okay with being messy and making mistakes, because I know that I am not mistake. I exist, and I am powerful, and it’s changed my life.

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