Follow by Email

Friday, April 24, 2015

For the Pioneers

The April day is chilled with the reminder that it is early spring, not early summer, and so the air still carries the last vestiges of winter. Late afternoon sun casts a speckled stage for tree-lit shadows to waver and dance on the deck outside. I'm in Virginia, far from my alma mater in Wisconsin. I'm watching tree seeds whirl from the branches and bury themselves in the fresh-cut grass. I'm marveling at the miracle of how God designed it. Death, burial, rebirth. Like seeds. Like life. Like people. Maybe like schools, too. I can hope.

There were relatives who questioned my decision to attend Northland. And there were winters when I felt my nose hairs freeze and my toes go numb when even I questioned my decision to attend Northland. But I can't deny that God did something in me there. A string of somethings.
If Tennyson is right, "I am a part of all that I have met," and Northland counts in there for five years of direct influence.

When I arrived as a freshman, we were a Bible college. When I graduated, we were an international university. I came with the understanding that I would wear a skirt to class every day. The day before I graduated, I wore jeans to my last exam. The changes weren't just political, though. They were personal too. I registered first as a math major, but my diploma marks me as the owner of a B.S. in English Education. I arrived alone, terrified of leaving my one best friend in Virginia. Today, it would take only a look at my phone history to see the names of a dozen or so girls scattered across the planet with whom I still feel an ongoing sense of community. It was messy and complicated and it shook my foundations in so many good ways. I wouldn't trade my Northland experience for anything.

I've spent the week in part watching the reactions of friends, teachers, current students and fellow alumni through social media. Like children realizing that we've been watched at play this whole time, we all felt a sense of awkwardness, I think. The sense of having security ripped away. We have enjoyed ourselves immensely! There was nothing to be ashamed of. We are glad that it should have been what it was and that it was valuable. And we only want it to go on. Though some of us graduated and moved on, we didn't want it to stop. We wanted the Northland Heart in its diversity and beauty to be a timeless thing. And it is. Though it will appear in different names.

Though it marks the end of a bit of myself, I can't reject the natural grief. It was unique. It really happened, and I'm thankful I got to be part of it. Others will commiserate, be sorry, say nice things (or raise their Pharisaic noses in legalistic "I told you so" arrogance). But they did not walk those dorm hallways in slippers to ask a friend for tea. They did not risk frozen eyebrows and frostbite to hear the next thrilling Romans lecture. They were not around to hear the announcement of a study abroad program. And they won't necessarily understand the weight of the question, "I'm going to you need anything?" Further, they did not sense the spirit of the study body rallying together in crisis, very like a family, the year we heard of Dr. Olson's resignation, reinstatement, and second resignation.

I feel that I have little to add to the conversation that would be constructive. Opinions abound.
We hurt. We wish. We want. We feel. And God will be God, and the world will go on. We have our memories and the sweet fellowship of the friends He gave us there. Nothing is wasted.
The news of Northland's plan to close after this year's commencement shocked us.
We are reeling from the blow. But we are linked together.
Even if we weren't on campus at the same time, we are Pioneers.
Let us live up to the name.

The sun never sets on Northland alumni. 


  1. Thank you, sis. "I wouldn't trade my Northland experience for anything" and "Nothing is wasted."

  2. Beautiful. Thank you. Maybe one day the emotion will quiet enough that I too will be able to write about my six transformational years in Wisconsin. Until then, I'll keep appreciating posts like yours that mostly say it for me.