This blog post is an essay that I am planning to submit for a book being written about my alma mater, Ozark Christian College. They are collecting stories from 75 years of lessons learned from this school. Honestly, I feel like I could write a book about the lessons I learned while I was a student at OCC, but this is the one that was laid most heavily on my heart. I may write other essays like this in the future if others will find value in this. Maybe, you will see this essay in the book sometime soon. If any of you were a part of this community I’m talking about, thank you.
One of the lessons I learned throughout my time at Ozark was how to live out life in genuine Christian community. I remember being specifically taught during Spiritual Formation Retreat in January 2013 about how essential it is to live our lives in the context of the body of Christ. Before this retreat, I had not realized how important this concept is to our spiritual lives. Although there are several verses in Scripture that describe community or instruct us how to properly live in community, one verse stands out above the rest in my mind:
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15, NIV84)
This verse seems to bookend my memories of community at Ozark in so many ways, especially my last two semesters.
We often rejoiced with those who rejoiced while I was at OCC. We would rejoice as a campus when we all received the text that informed us that classes were cancelled (usually because of snow), especially when it happened more than one day in a row. We would rejoice as a dorm floor when one of the girls announced she was engaged. We rejoiced over someone’s birthday (On Goodman 3rd [my dorm floor, also known as G3], this included writing affirmations for the birthday girl on the mirrors in the bathroom and decorating the door of their room with toilet paper). We rejoiced whenever someone hit a milestone in their Ozark career, like when they completed their Principles Project or their Theological Integration Paper. As a music major, we rejoiced when we completed juries, recitals, or the Living Christmas Tree. We rejoiced whenever someone had plans for their future confirmed. And we definitely rejoiced when we watched our friends receive their diplomas and graduate from OCC. In those moments, the joy was all the more genuine because it was mutual. In many of those moments, G3 even made the habit of singing Doxology as part of our rejoicing. This is because we saw God’s hand in the joy we shared.
But there were also moments that we mourned with those who mourned. We would help each other bear grief or get through difficult seasons of life, simply by being there for each other. Sometimes, you just needed someone to listen when things were getting difficult. Other times, you were the one that needed to do the listening and offer your shoulder to cry on. On G3, it seemed that if you were going through something, you could literally walk out into your hallway and walk into any room to ask for advice or comfort. Even if you may not have been super close, the girls on my floor would probably have dropped anything to help each other if they needed it. Some of those moments of turning to others for help were so beautiful and powerful. But there was one instance in which together, our whole campus learned what it truly means to mourn with those who mourn.
When our friend and fellow student Brandon Stuckey passed away in a car accident on February 6, 2013, we had the opportunity to live this out. Many of us stood outside of Boatman dorm for hours that night. We sang songs about comfort, peace, and heaven. We prayed for his family, his friends, and his dorm brothers on Boatman 3rd. But most importantly, we comforted each other in our tears. Even though we were all hurting from this loss, we declared together that we would trust the Lord, even in our grief. When we are bearing such extreme or sudden sorrow, we are called to cry with our brothers and sisters, to help bear the burden of their pain. Although that was one of the hardest nights on my life so far, I cherish the bittersweet memories of community. In fact, I remember that another student posted on Facebook, “Tonight, the term ‘Christian community’ was defined.” I agree.
[This is not part of the essay, but this video is a spoken word poem I just released this month about the experiencing of losing Brandon. It specifically talks about Christian community and mourning with those who mourn]
Because of these and other experiences, I believe that the term “Christian community” was defined not just that night, but throughout my whole experience at Ozark. Much of the other experiences I had fell somewhere in between the two extremes of sharing great joy and sharing extreme pain. But through all the highs and lows, I learned that the place where we find the best community is in the place where those that surround us are willing to identify with us, regardless of our current emotional state. Through that, we learned many of the other concepts about genuine community in Christ that are also listed in Romans 12, like be devoted to one another in brotherly love (vs. 10) or doing what we can to live at peace with everyone (vs. 18). We had the opportunities to live these out every day in the context of community in Christ. It was something that on one hand I loved while I was in school, and on the other hand I took for granted while I was a student, especially my first few years. After I went on Spiritual Formation Retreat, I made more intentional efforts to build community and to get to know more people on campus. And it made my experience my last two semester all the richer. I definitely missed that when I completed my internship my last semester as a student, but it also made me more intentional to seek out community at the church where I interned. This, again, make my experience all the richer.
As I remember the community we fostered at Ozark, I praise God that He brought me to OCC, so that I could learn what genuine community looks like. This way, I can help others seek it out for themselves, both within their own churches and within the body of Christ as a whole. I hope anyone else that reads this story will be inspired to do the same.
This have been another great review to write! I was selected to be on the launch team for Surprised by the Healer. This means that not only did I have the chance to read it before its release, but I also had the chance to participate in a few webinars with the authors of the book. I’ve also been part of a community of over 200 women on the launch team, who have been working on finding ways to promote the book. It has been an awesome experience in which I have already seen this book working in the lives of women who have read it, even before its official release. Because of the maturity of some of the stories and subjects in this book, I would recommend it for those over the age of 17, but probably not for someone younger than this age. Although this book is by women and for women, men are also finding value it reading it. If you have any other questions, just ask
We live in a broken world, a world that has been broken by sin. Whether it be the sins we’ve committed, or the sins committed against us, we have all seen the consequences played out in our lives, as well as the lives of those around us. Some of our brokenness is visible to others, while other times the brokenness is internal, often making our struggles unknown on the surface. Of all the brokenness we as humans struggle with internally, sexuality is probably one of the most difficult to overcome. For many, the struggles with the things we’ve done or the things done against keep us in hiding in fear. It’s hard to know what to do when in you’re in the depths of that struggle, or what to do when someone you love is facing such a struggle. It makes us ask the question: can we find hope amidst our brokenness?
In the book Surprised by the Healer, you meet nine women that found hope in the midst of their personal and sexual brokenness. They all courageously chose to share their stories, stories of sins and struggles that most of us would be afraid to share. While following the journeys of these women in such an honest and vulnerable way, everyone will find ways in which they relate to the brokenness of these women. Even if you’ve never experienced sexual brokenness somehow, you will find ways in which your personal struggles with mirror these women’s stories. Although all their stories are different, they all had one thing in common: they were all surprised with healing in their brokenness by Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals. Their healings looked different, and many of them are still a work in progress, but they all found healing and freedom from the prison of their brokenness. After each story, authors Linda Dillow and Dr. Juli Slattery take us through the principles of healing proclaimed in each story. This book doesn’t end in a sermon demanding that you have everything all put together, but it ends with an invitation to be surprised by the healing you will find if you choose to pursue it. It’s a matter of choice to pursue it yourself, or to help others do the same.
This book is specifically for women (17 and older), but it is especially for women that have brokenness in your past (or present), or those that desire to counsel women who have such brokenness in their lives. This book can be a powerful tool, if you choose to use it. Get your hands on a copy today!