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By Emily Sorensen

“If you believe in a God who controls the big things, you have to believe in a God who controls the little things. It is we, of course, to whom things look ‘little’ or ‘big’.” –Elisabeth Elliot 

College has taught me that God is a God of the little things. Just in the past two weeks I felt a slight tug at my hamstring during track practice. It slowed me down for five days. Five days to a runner is quite a bit of training. As I drove to work during those five days, I was telling God that “God, I really am not done with my college track career. I wanted to compete well in the last month I have.” And that’s when it hit me. I had not had the attitude of finishing as strong as possible in my track career, I was coasting it out. But when God took the ability away from me, He was proving His point – I need to finish well. God uses hamstrings. 

My sophomore year, college was really hard for me. I couldn’t seem to find my place in the big world of Northwestern. God led me to find and write down every single good thing that happened during the day for a week: no matter how ‘big’ or ‘little’. Whether it was someone smiling at me, my favorite food for lunch, or having fun at track practice. Every good encounter. God showed me that He is enough and is everywhere, and that I don’t need to fit in to be happy. I need to be following Him and to be thankful. God uses the disappointment of college not living up to the hype. 

God led me to serve at a summer camp in Alaska after my freshman year that I found on the Internet. I didn’t know anything about the camp, I didn’t know anyone there, and I had never heard of it until Google. I wouldn’t trade that summer, though. The people I met, creation I saw, and opportunities I had were incredible. God uses the Internet. 

God has used words from a teammate to show me that it doesn’t matter how fast I run a quarter mile, but that it matters how I treat people. God has used professors gracefully extending deadlines to show me that everything really does work out. God has given me joy when the caf workers taking our dishes say “thank you” back to me. God has given me new perspectives because of the words of friends.  

Looking back on these things from my college career, were these God encounters ‘big’ or ‘little’? Maybe the tug in my hamstring was a big thing. Maybe learning to be thankful because of “little things” is really a big thing. Maybe a response from a caf worker is a big thing. We serve a big God who uses everything. “It is we, of course, to whom things look ‘little’ or ‘big’.” 

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What advice would you give to underclassmen regarding their personal faith walk while here at NWC? 

Northwestern was the only college I visited that offered constant, spiritual engagement opportunities. At the end of the day, your personal faith walk is determined by your daily choices to engage with the Lord. While Northwestern certainly checks the box of hosting powerful worship nights and captivating speakers, the difference-maker in my mind is the magnitude of opportunities that fill the gaps during the week. I think the healthiest relationships in life tend to have the most interaction, and the same rule applies for one’s personal faith walk. While experiencing a “spiritual high” is an amazing experience, even better is maintaining that height and compounding growth within it. By having the daily opportunities to spiritually engage with my environment, (RA, RD, prayer groups, praise and worship, chapel, accountability groups, NED talks, team Bible studies, faith-based learning in the classroom, and countless discussions resulting from those) Northwestern allowed me the opportunity to strengthen my relationship with Christ in a constant manner. My advice is to choose to engage. There are opportunities surrounding you on campus, and a simple “yes” can lead you to extremely healthy places, people, and practices. Much like infrequency makes a long-distance relationship hard, a similar structure occurs with the Lord. This is the easiest time in your life to encounter constant, spiritual engagement opportunities, so why not say yes! 

In what ways is God challenging you to grow now? 

Preparing for full-time employment isn’t the easiest transition to take on. Trying to narrow my search to a certain city or field of work is troublesome in the same way picking a major was. The pressure to interpret or discover God’s calling for your life is one I think a lot of college students can probably relate to. I’ve been challenged lately to be at peace in wherever this process leads me. Fears of making the wrong choice or valuing the wrong qualities in a job inevitably cross my mind, but finding rest in His redemptive faithfulness pull me through. I’ve also been challenged to realize not to overvalue my occupation. In a culture so easily driven by money, success, and power, it’s natural to crave those “worldy” attributes. It’s also natural to come out of undergrad and desire the acceptance of my dream position, but more importantly I need to keep my heart and mind focused on things above. I don’t really think pursuing a certain major or career (within reason) will go against God’s will, rather disregarding written and clear instructions definitely does. So whether I end up on a coast, in Iowa, or somewhere abroad, my job does not define my identity. I will never explicitly be told where I should go or work, but I know who I am called to be. By being committed to pursuing God’s redeeming work in the world, the stress of knowing all the answers dissipates. I can confidently follow wherever life may be opening doors and know my identity aligns with the Lord’s will. 

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What advice would you give to underclassmen regarding their personal faith walk while here at NWC? 
 

It’s hard to believe it, but these four years at NWC fly by faster than you can say community. My advice to those of you still in the midst of this crazy, beautiful, stressful, sleepless, and exciting adventure is this: take your time. Take your time to delve into all of the things NWC has to offer. There are so many amazing people on campus to help you grow in your faith. Get serious about your faith, ask questions, and seek out people who can mentor you and pour into you. Now is the time to really own your faith and get serious about the kind of relationship you want to have with God. Sure, you have all those assignments waiting for you, but take some time and set those aside to make time for your faith. Living off campus, I’ve realized that NWC is a place like no other – I knew not being on campus was going to be different, but nothing can prepare you for entering back into the real world. You aren’t going to have all this support and people wanting to minister to you and help you grow spiritually at any other point in your life. Take advantage of it! 

Describe a time at NWC when God’s presence was obvious to you.  

In the fall of my junior year, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, a place very dear to my heart as I had done camp there with TEAMeffort in summer 2016. I wanted to do something to help my PR family but I had no idea what. I was in school and had no money but my heart hurt just sitting around hoping that something was being done. Weeks went by and I had this nagging on my heart to do something, organize a fundraiser or do anything. But my first thought was: who am I to do this? There’s no way I’d be able to pull it off. God had other ideas. After a random late night conversation with my friends Jenni and Abigail, where I shared my heart and hypothetically shared my idea for a fundraiser, they enthusiastically encouraged me to pursue the idea. God made these two my encouragement and support throughout the whole process and let me tell you, it wasn’t an easy thing. There were many times when I questioned if this was worth it, or if it would turn into anything. The day came and I woke up uncertaindid I really want to do this? Anyone who knows me knows I’m outgoing, but walking around the dorms asking for money is a whole different thing. I was the leader and I scared! I was supposed to be brave, yet here I was. God was faithful in reminding me through my devotional that day that his power is made perfect in my weakness and that’s what happened. It was incredible to see the response from studentsrunning around their rooms trying to find money to donate. While counting the money, it just seemed to keep multiplying as we kept finding more envelopes that we hadn’t counted. God’s faithfulness in the midst of our fear and discomfort that night was incredible to see. He had given me this little dream I doubted would succeed, but with his faithfulness, the people he provided who encouraged me to follow it, and the generous hearts of NWC, this lofty dream to help my PR family became a reality. God is faithful and will do amazing things if only we can learn to trust him.