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Abigail Van Hook '12

 

Year: 2012
Residence: MacGregor
Major: 7
Stories are funny things. According to my seventh-grade English teacher, stories have to have the following basic plot progression: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement (I had to look up how to spell that—sorry Mrs. Gabrielse!) But add a little possessive pronoun like “our” or “my” and voila! The story becomes something so much more than plot elements—it’s a collection of anecdotes, comments, and opinions on my life.

So what do I think about my life? To get right to the point because I probably have a word limit here, sometimes my life sucks. Like last summer when my grandfather was slowly, torturously, miserably descending into an excruciating state of suffering before his death in September. Like those mornings when I studied so hard for that exam but the grade I got back was not what I needed. Like that day when I said something really stupid and messed up that relationship. Like those nights when I laid awake worrying about classes, grad school, relationships, and my future, hugging my pillow and wiping my eyes and blowing my nose until I somehow slid blissfully into unconsciousness. On the other hand, sometimes my life is awesome. Like when I’ve walked across Killian in the morning amidst the rising mist, listening to the gentle chatter of the songbirds in the trees welcoming the gleaming sun. Like the times my pset came back with a giant smiley face sticker and three very beautiful digits. Like the day I got to slip into a seamless magenta dress, play with a curling iron and makeup, and dance the night away at a semiformal. Like the night I stayed up giggling and goofing and sharing with my friends until the sun beckoned us to our beds.

The problem here is that sometimes my life sucks, but sometimes it’s so awesome. So when I try and understand who I am and why I’m here, I get stuck in a horrible conundrum. If I define who I am as this person’s friend, what happens when I mess up that relationship? If I set my purpose as succeeding in my classes, what happens when I fail that exam? What happens is frustration, conflict, discontentment, anger, struggle, and a feeling of disquiet in my soul instead of peace, which is what I so deeply desire.

The only satisfying set of answers I’ve found to the questions of who I am and why I’m here are the answers I’ve found by faith in Christ Jesus. Who am I? I am a child of God, loved by my Creator and the King of all the universe despite my stupidity, my insecurities, my weakness, my fears, my anger, my jealousy, my lies, my cruelty, my hate, my wickedness. Despite all these things that are so wrong about me, I am loved. Why am I here? I am here to praise and enjoy God forever. When I damage that relationship, when I screw up that exam, when I do something stupid in front of someone I’m trying to impress, even then I am carrying out my goal because I am worshipping my God. Whatever I do or don’t do, I have a purpose to honor God.

And what are the ramifications of these answers, of knowing that I am loved and that I have a purpose? I’ve got one word for you—PEACE. A feeling of contentment and calm, of understanding and harmony. It wasn’t until I came to MIT that I fully realized how much I needed this peace. My loving Christian family, my strong church experience, my Christian middle and high school that pounded Bible stories and theology into that grayish squishy organ they call a brain… My life had been easy and my faith had been a given. But amidst the busyness, the struggles, the drama, the frustration, and the unending pile of work that accumulated on my desk here at MIT, I discovered how much I relied on the peace that I have found in God, that comes from knowing who I am and why I’m here. And so I grasped my faith ever tighter and I can say honestly that it is all that has enabled me to understand myself, all that has gotten me through my life here at MIT.

What is my faith? That Christ Jesus, fully God and fully Man, lived a perfect life, died on the cross to satisfy God’s demand for justice because of the ways I have wronged him with my hate and my lies and my selfishness and my desire to control my own life. That God raised Jesus from the dead, conquering the death-grasp of evil on humanity and enabling us to build a relationship with God even now in our earthly lives. That the Holy Spirit guides my thoughts and steps and is continually leading me to become the godly person that God desires for me. And along with my faith has come a peace, a contentment, a trust that pervades every aspect of my life. I know who I am and why I am here—I believe that I am loved and that I am here to worship my God.

I’d love to keep talking about me, but I guess I should probably finish up about now. But if you want to ask me something, please please please email me at avanhook@mit.edu. So to finish up, Mrs. Gabrielse always told us that stories had to leave the reader with something to chew on. So I’ll give you a quote from Romans 5:1-2, which says “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”