by Dr. Todd J. Williams
There has been plenty written in plenty of places about 2020. It will no doubt be a year we will not forget, and it is not over yet. Recently, as I was thinking over the past academic year for my role in formalizing some reports and assessments at the University, I was struck by how distant a memory January and February (let alone the Fall 2019 semester) actually are. The course of events that have unfolded since March and the onset of the impact of the pandemic in the United States—as well as those that are still unfolding and those that will unfold in the months to come—have not only overshadowed the months preceding but have many of us grieving and feeling weary, anxious, discouraged, angry, and confused.
In conversations with friends and colleagues, students and their parents, and leaders from other organizations and ministries, I have clearly seen the weight of all that we are experiencing bearing down on folks. It has prompted me to pray more often; it has also prompted me to reflect not only on the issues but on the dimension of our emotional and spiritual resilience and our readiness for hard times. From the social and economic impact of the pandemic, to the grievous racial issues and resulting social tensions that have gripped the nation, to the political divides that are exacerbated by the contentiousness of the looming presidential election (not to mention the ever-present realities of geopolitical instability and the threats that carries with it), we have had our minds and hearts inundated with complex and difficult realities that ultimately stem from the pervasive implications of sin and the fall. In light of all of this, I’ve had people ask me straightforwardly, “What are we to do?” It’s a perfectly understandable question, one I ask myself often. But to my own self and to those who ask me, my first response is, “Steady. Remember who we are.”
This past summer I spoke at CAMP-of-the-WOODS and preached from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. I entitled the series, “How Should We Live When Life is Not Kind?” I have always been struck by the consistent way in which the Apostle Paul begins his letters to the early church, a church facing sometimes dire circumstances and incredible pressure from within and without. First century Christians faced divisions and factious allegiances within the body; the pernicious impact of false teaching was ever-present; and the dangers of persecution that threatened not their pride and social standing but life and limb were real. It is striking that Paul always starts his communications by reminding Christians who they are, rehearsing for them the goodness and grace of God made known to them through Jesus Christ, and often reasserting the basics of the gospel and outlining all that is ours in and through it. This orients his readers.
We all need this kind of reminder to point us in the right direction. We are human. Our flesh is weak and our faith o en falters. We get overwhelmed. We get discouraged. We get angry. We want to fight, or we want to quit. There is grace, mercy, and peace for us as the tenderness of God through the Spirit who indwells us ministers to us. But we also need to take responsibility to check ourselves and to resist being swept up and swept along. We need to remember to be “steady.” The way of our Lord, the way of the cross requires perspective, conviction, and commitment to resist being swept up in and swept along by the emotions of our day, even our own emotional reactions and responses to the unkindness of life. This is not easy, but neither is it impossible. This is the message Paul delivers to his beloved Philippians, and it speaks to us still.
One of the important ways we can be steady and remember who we are is to remain biblical. As you read this issue of the magazine, my hope is that you will see our earnest efforts to do just that.
Cairn University is emphatic and unequivocal in our commitment to keep the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Word of God at the center of all we do. It is more than a line in our literature. It is a conviction consistent with and born out of our mission and our beliefs. It is an expression ever on our minds. On any and all of the critical issues facing us—issues requiring our attention, issues requiring honest self-examination individually and institutionally, issues requiring us to strengthen some things and change others—we must endeavor to be intentionally and explicitly biblical and consistently Christian. The assumptions that guide our analysis and inform our courses of action regarding the issues and challenges we face, the hardships we encounter, and the divisions that arise in our midst must be according to this core value and not rooted in secularism or the sensibilities of the world around us. This is true not only for organizations and institutions like Cairn but also for us as individuals. We must hold our course as followers of Christ. We cannot shrink back, quit, or lash out. We cannot lose hope. We cannot panic. We must push on, keep striving, and keep at it. And this can only be our way if we remember that we must be “steady.”
Dr. Todd J. Williams has been the president of Cairn University since January 2008. He served on the faculty and administration from 1996 to 2001, and then returned as provost in 2005. He can be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.