By Tanner Hilbrands

Last Tuesday I had the opportunity to go to President Christy’s house for lunch and was able to reflect on the past 4 years with my fellow seniors. It was amazing to see and listen to stories about where we had all come from and how Northwestern brought us all together. Pretty incredible how a small-town boy from Remsen, Iowa could be connected with people from all parts of the country and even, the world. Michelle Christy shared a verse with us from Isaiah 43 about how God made streams and rivers in the wasteland. God works in our lives in ways we may have never imagined. As she talked about how God works in our lives she brought out a pair of shoes. The shoes were old, worn, kind of dirty, and related that back to our time at Northwestern.

We have so many experiences in our short 4 years together – the many campus activities, late night paper procrastination, 4 years of basketball and track and field, and now student teaching with a group of high school sophomores and seventh graders (and trust me… teaching just a semester have given me a whole other slew of stories). But… I am tired. The tread on my shoes are worn to the brim. But as I reflect, the places those shoes have taken me have been incredible. The people I have met wearing these shoes have built relationships that will last a lifetime – Kendal Stanislav, my roommates, Jim Burmakow, Kris Korver, my SSP NOLA fam, Professor Koerselman, my teammates, the RA staff, the list goes on and on.

Yes, I believe the cliché “community” of Northwestern is a very real thing. I’m confident that the people I’ve met here at NWC will last a lifetime and the things I’ve shared with these folks will soon be memories. Soon, all I will have left is a worn pair of shoes.

I have loved every moment of college. But as is true for many of us seniors, I am scared for the future. But, this is a good type of scary. Last school year, Rick Clark (my professor and my basketball coach) shared a powerful sermon about the planting of seeds into people. Many of us do not realize it quite yet, but there have been seeds planted and years down the road we will have the good fortune of reaping a harvest. Northwestern has planted these seeds within us and some of us will reap a harvest faster than others, but the seeds have been planted and it is our job to take care of these seeds as we move on in life. Although our shoes will get dirty along the way, the journey we go on to reap this harvest makes us who we are.

Northwestern has prepared us for the future and I want to “Ncourage” (Monsma puns) my fellow seniors that no matter where you end up after graduation, it is all in God’s Plan. S/O Drake.

Mark DeYounge, who in my opinion is an absolute rock star, shared a message with incoming Freshmen two years ago that really struck a chord with me and made me realize that life as we know it is a constant race. We trained all throughout high school to prepare us for college. Whether it is academics, music, sports, or whatever, our time growing up was set to prepare us for our time as a Raider. Our parents handed us off, they gave the baton to our professors, coaches, staff members, and trusted them to get us into the next “leg” of the race (of our lives). And with graduation looming just weeks away, it is almost time to grab the baton for the next “leg” of our lives. Where this “leg” of the race takes us is not for us to micro-manage, but our focus ought to be centered in continually finding joy as we trust God’s lead. We must live with the end in sight and glorify God in all that we do. We should not simply run towards a physical destination, rather we should enjoy every minute of the journey as we run the race of life. Life will inevitably gives us many ups and downs along the way, but we need to know that there is a training partner running alongside us every step of the way – Jesus.

Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

So I say to you now, go and run your race. Seniors grab that baton and dominate the next leg of your race. Freshmen, don’t be afraid of the college journey that lies ahead, rather embrace the tough road and know that it will be the best 4 years of your life. Run it at your own pace and don’t worry how fast or slow you go, but rather run it for God and run it to glorify him in all that you do. Enjoy every moment of running that race. Life is all about the journey you go on and someday we will reach that finish line; that finish line being the fullness of heaven with Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior standing at the end cheering us on every step of the way.

I was supposed to keep this short, so sorry for rambling. The past 4 years were the best 4 years of my life. Thank you, Northwestern, for the time of my life! As for me, after graduation, I think I’m going to get some new shoes, mine are worn out.

Much Love NWC!

Raiders Row,

Tanner Hilbrands