By Ryan Struyk
Calvin College Chimes Editor 2013-14
I’ve spent most of the last 18 months here at Chimes trying to get the full story: asking the tough questions, sending writers back for another interview and doing whatever it takes to get the “full story.”
And regrettably, I don’t think I’ve succeeded once.
There is so much behind every story that it’s impossible to capture the full behind-the-scenes angle that personifies and allows us to completely understand.
Because behind every decision, every action and every change, there’s a person making that decision, performing the action and leading through the change.
Chaplain Mary Hulst spent the first half of Saturday’s rivalry basketball game comforting the wife of a man who collapsed during the national anthem and later died, only to enthusiastically run the Calvin flag around the court less than an hour later.
Student body president David Kuenzi explained to me the hardship of sacrificing many hours of his finals week to represent the student body on the committee that was making difficult, last-minute decisions about budget cuts last semester.
Provost Claudia Beversluis teared up when she told faculty senate that she has read every word of letter after letter from alumni, pleading with her not to cut certain departments — but she still needs to make tough decisions.
And just like in journalism, life is full of conversations and situations where we don’t know the full story.
While I was struggling to come out to close friends last fall, a wise friend told me: “Everyone’s got their stuff.” (He didn’t actually say stuff, but I’m not going to print an expletive, even if it is my last editorial.)
Many of us are wrestling with depression, especially now during the winter. Some of us regularly get crippling migraine headaches. Some of us struggle with eating disorders. Others of us come from broken families. And as this paper pointed out this fall, some of us are enveloped in fear over our sexual identity.
And you can’t tell any of this when you shake someone’s hand.
So I offer the same simple thought that one of my role models, former U.S. senator Olympia Snowe, told us at lunch after the January Series last Thursday: “Be kinder.”
Theologian Ian Maclaren expanded that thought a bit more: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
My own experience being closeted on Calvin’s campus has taught me this: you never know what’s going on in a person’s life behind-the-scenes.
So give hugs a little more often, smile a little more and give the benefit of the doubt more than you probably should.
Why? It’s this kind of grace – lavished on other people without condition or reservation – that God gives us.
But while we don’t know the “stuff” in the lives of other people, we know that God sees all the “stuff” in us — the brokenness, the pain, the shame and the insecurities.
And we don’t have to worry about the judgment or betrayal or gossip we might expect from other people, because the Father sees Christ in our place.
Pastor Mary said it beautifully in LOFT on Sunday night: in the world, our very acceptance depends on covering our blemishes. But as Christians, our acceptance depends on us having blemishes — and bringing them to the cross.
So be kinder. Love freely. And remember that accepting God’s grace and sharing it with others is what God’s “full story” for us is all about.
Posted online in Chimes, January 16, 2014