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A Life Changed Through Learning

2 weeks ago written by
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A Mormon and a Jew walk into a bar … OK, more like a department store.

I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, into the family of a Jewish immigrant and a generational Mormon. At an early age, I was not exposed to who Jesus is and what true salvation looks like. I never heard words like brokenness, redemption or discipleship. It wasn’t until I attended Seattle Pacific University to pursue my graduate degree that I began to have language around the things I always wondered about. But let me back up a little.

As I began to think about what to write for this month’s Openers and reflected on my learning journey, I called my mom to gain some perspective. As I explained my task, she responded with encouragement, “You wanted to know more and always wanted to fix people. You saw higher education as an avenue to accomplish that.”

While I’m not sure aspiring to “fix people” is a good thing, she was right. From a young age, I was curious about how the world worked, why humans functioned in sometimes hurtful ways, and how people can grow and learn to be better and whole. That’s likely why I pursued a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in education from the University of Washington. I graduated with research-based understanding, but I was still seeking something more. This must be why I began pursuing my master’s degree in the fall of 2015.

Honestly, I was a little hesitant to even apply to a small Christian university. What if they talk about …  you know …  God? Lo and behold, on the first day, one of our professors prayed for our journey and called on God to use us as vessels. In a moment that I had assumed would make me feel like an uncomfortable imposter, all I felt was peace. This was one of the first times I felt Him begin to change my heart and my life.

In the span of 18 months, God changed me into an almost unrecognizable, new person. God’s plan started well before I entered the classrooms of Seattle Pacific University, but I never would have been introduced to the life God has for me without pursuing a deeper understanding while attending Seattle Pacific. In those classrooms, I learned about community, calling and, most importantly, the peace and joy that become available when you surrender your heart to Christ.

This month’s issue of Light + Life is centered around the theme of lifelong learning. In the book of Philippians, the Apostle Paul encourages the believers of Philippi to seek and live out a life that is abundant in the gospel, as a life with this abundance bears peace and joy from the Lord. Near the end of his letter, Paul explains that one of the ways to attain this peace and joy is by applying the things we learn about who God is, how God is, and why we should strive to live a life that mirrors our Savior, Jesus. “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9).

Learning about who God is and how we can find joy and peace in Him is a journey of growth that happens over time through formal learning, trial and error, surrounding ourselves with disciples and teachers, etc. Each time we learn something new, we begin to see the world and people a little differently —we have the opportunity to see the world and people as God sees them.

But the choice is ours. Do we choose to learn about who God is and apply it? Do we choose to learn from our sins and missteps? Do we choose to surround ourselves with disciples who will teach and model an abundant, gospel-filled life? This is the plea that Paul makes in Philippians. It is our choice to learn, apply and pursue the peace and joy-filled life that God offers us.

The Light + Life team has dedicated this issue to exploring what learning looks like in seasons of a believer’s life ranging from grade school through graduate degrees and beyond. In addition, each October we expand Light + Life to include the annual Higher Education Guide that highlights the six Free Methodist colleges and universities across the United States. This year we have also invited the John Wesley Seminary Foundation affiliates to participate. Our World section also features universities in Africa and Asia that demonstrate the Free Methodist commitment to Christian education is a global phenomenon.

Kaylin Sallenback is the operations manager for Light + Life. She has a master’s degree in industrial-organizational psychology from Seattle Pacific University.

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[Openers] · L + L October 2018 · Magazine