500 Years New

Written by Maddie Lindahl

During the season of Reformation, I think I matched the church. In this year, and more specifically during Reformation Week, we have entered a period of reflection and newness. Taking a step back, we have been asking: now that it has been 500 years, how has that reformation shaped us? Others? What joy, anguish, disturbance and peace has it brought? How did we get there, and where do we go from here? As we ask these questions in the church, I too ask them of myself.

Just over a year ago I was so new. I was so new that I felt like it was my freshman year all over again. But it wasn’t. I was a junior, adopting a new major and transferring here because of it. Even though I grew up close to the cities, and have spent some time on campus, I still felt out of place. No other juniors seemed as reformed as I felt. Classrooms were new, professors were new, peers were new, GPA was old (apparently some things you just can’t reform). I grasped for familiarity, and though it took a while, I found some pieces.

Last year I felt so new because I was reforming myself. For two years I struggled to fit myself into the mold of my major: chemical engineering. Engineering is a wonderful thing that we depend on daily, but it was something I could just never find my fit in. I could never envision what I would be doing a year or two after graduation. This lack of direction made it difficult to find passion for my classes. Without passion or direction, I struggled. My grades dipped embarrassingly. The identity I had made for myself as an overachieving student vanished overnight. No, literally, it took one day of three midterm exams at once to wipe away most of my self-confidence. This defeat shook me to my core and I stayed in that shivering state for longer than I like to admit. I tried to disconnect because it felt better than staying connected to all that shame and disappointment. It took me a whole year from that event to determine that I needed out. I needed to get away from something that felt like it could only ever strap me to the idea that I was not good or passionate enough. I finally decided to change majors as a result and that new decision brought one thing: the most powerful, immense peace I have ever felt. It was such an overwhelming peace that I laughed out loud by myself in the middle of a campus coffee shop. And since then, I have been reforming, restructuring how I think of myself, and how to understand my value now that I am not a perfect student. Reformation to me has never been about perfection; it’s about a better understanding.

Reformation is so real, and newness is so real to me. I have made very intentional changes in my life to find newness, but newness has also found me in unexpected places. I haven’t yet stopped reflecting on my experiences as a freshman/sophomore and transfer student.

Now I am a senior in college about to graduate this spring and yet I stand here still feeling so new. I just got here. I think understanding that reformation is a path of continual process is important. Has the church ever really been static? And have our lives ever really been static? For me, the answer is no! We are so dynamic and so is our world and our church. The newness that we find every day in our lives speaks to this. So I ask you to pause for a moment and reflect on all this new, both in your life and the church.

What is new and frustrating; what is old that should be new? How could the newness be affecting others, or yourself? It has been 500 years since Martin Luther started the reformation, but I think that things still feel new. So I ask God to guide us through the new, to learn from where we came from, and let these reflections guide us on our paths going onward.

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