A Senior’s Epilogue:
I Found the Way
From Watercolor by Jimmy Lee, Silliman ‘95.
Yale became important to me for the first time when my friend George was accepted here in April, 1964. George, voted “most likely to succeed” by his high school class, was to end his college education with a nervous breakdown from the pressures that he encountered at Yale. But before I became a freshman here in 1966, a revolutionary change took place in my life that gave me a purpose and confidence throughout my years at Yale.
Since I lived in Olympia, Washington, the state capital, I was actively involved in politics during the 1964 election. I became convinced that my political ideas were right and others were wrong—until one night when I was participating in a sleep-in demonstration at the Governor’s Office. A college student whom I met there poked holes in all my arguments. I began to see that my candidates were as bad as their candidates, and I saw most of my candidates roundly defeated in the election. Then I started debating and learned to argue both sides of a political question—the final blow against my idealistic way of thinking. Although debate taught me to be objective, it made me cynical about everything.
About this time I was a member of our high school senate while George was its president. A group of students met in a classroom to sing hymns every day before school until George found out about it. He suspended parliamentary procedure and moved that this group be prohibited. The motion passed, and I went along with it. “After all, what were these people doing singing songs about Jesus in a school? They should save that sort of thing for church,” I thought.
I went to church about once a week. After several years of going through the motions of singing and bowing my head for prayer, I got the distinct impression that I was faking it. I used to wonder if the people in the pew with me—this boy or that girl—really did know God. I began sitting in the front pew, straining to hear the preacher in case he could give the answer to my question in his sermon, but I got nothing. I started to read books on psychoanalysis and philosophy and to search other religions—Hinduism, Islam, etc.—but found nothing that satisfied me.
At a debate during my senior year at high school, I met a college student who did have the answer. Sitting on a couch arranging my debate cards, I fell into a conversation with him, a senior at Seattle Pacific College. I did all that I could to keep an open mind, especially when he started talking about the Bible. I left my arguments against the Bible aside for a moment and just listened to what he had to say.
He said that a person can reach God only through Jesus Christ. He pointed to the verse: “Jesus said,…‘I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father, but by me.’” I realized that I could invite Jesus into my own life by praying to Him. The other fellow prayed with me to help me, since I had about zero faith. I felt nothing and went away feeling that nothing had happened. But after that, my life really started changing.
When I read the Bible, for the first time I could grasp what it meant in my own life. To help me understand the Scriptures, the college student would come on his motorcycle sixty miles through a rainstorm. I learned that the Bible is superior to any human philosophy because it is the word of God. “The foolishness of God is wiser than men.”
When I came to Yale, I met several freshmen who met together at seven o’clock in the mornings and again in the evenings to pray and study the Bible. I did not go to all the meetings for the first six months because I had not yet decided to yield my life entirely to the Lord. During spring vacation in Florida, I finally decided to give my whole life to Jesus. Two weeks later He baptized me in the Holy Spirit. Other freshmen who knew me immediately noticed the change in my life.
After the first few months at Yale, I realized what could have happened to me if God had not changed my life. Students who did not have Christ’s power in their lives soon became victims of pressures at Yale.
My freshman entryway in McClellan Hall was a particularly blighted one. Three of my neighbors soon became discouraged and dropped out. Another boy, a heavy drug-user who lived upstairs, was killed in a freak car accident.
George, who was on the Dean’s list as a freshman, also began to fall apart. The summer before his senior year he began smoking marijuana, which really finished him. Within a few months he was unable to carry a normal load of schoolwork.
At commencement, I went to see George graduate from Yale. I searched through the procession line, but no one knew where he was. During President Brewster’s Commencement speech, I finally found George was standing by Phelps Gate, wearing jeans and wrinkled shirt instead of a cap and gown. I asked him, “Why aren’t you in the ceremony?” He replied, “I didn’t get up in time for it,” which was not the truth. I found out later that he had failed to graduate. Whatever personality problems he had before were now aggravated by the marijuana, and his parents had to commit him to a mental institution.
When I came to Yale, I found that the “props” that I had depended on were being knocked out from under me. The hymn became real to me, “On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.” I realized that only Jesus and His words stay the same; everything else is always changing, like the “sinking sand.” My own philosophy of life, which I had built out of my ideas and traditions, fell apart at Yale. But I was content to let all these half-truths and near-truths go. I held fast to Jesus, who said, “I am the Truth.”
Instead of going into a panic during examinations, I could trust God to help me organize my thoughts. Instead of getting depressed over the “daily grind” of schoolwork, I could rejoice in knowing that God loves and cares for me. My health improved so markedly that I was almost never sick; I didn’t need the big bottle of aspirin that I had brought with me to Yale. The Christian friends that I made at Yale were ones whom I could really trust. I have no fear of dying, because the life that I began when I received Christ is eternal. Jesus’ words became true in my own experience: “I have come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.”
Mark Lindberg, Timothy Dwight ‘70
© 1997 The Yale Standard Committee