To everything there is a season. The season of beginnings is an energizing elixir of possibility, hope, doubt, energy, fear and wonderment. For students it means mastering new courses, new roles for the music ensemble, stage or athletic team and new, higher expectations. Always we begin again and always with anticipation. In the world of rigorous higher education, as in all of life, one must master the season of beginning in order to have any chance of finishing well.
And after the beginning follows the long season of enduring that brings at last the season of finishing. For Coach Jaime Ramirez and the men’s soccer team, finishing well meant defeating Dixie State University in the final game of the regular season last November 7 to win the Pacific West conference. With that win they became the first FPU team to enter post-season play in the NCAA. They played valiantly and finished well. It changed them and it changed Fresno Pacific. Likewise the swimming and diving team sent its first qualifiers to the NCAA DII nationals. They returned with All-American honors. They returned different people than the ones who left.
For many FPU students April is the season of finishing, when the labor and love of learning comes to fruition in final exams, final projects, final courses and final performances. One especially dramatic performance happened in Chicago.
Erik Leung directs the Symphonic Band, a group of undergraduate musicians whom he intentionally recruited. Together they labored relentlessly but somehow always joyfully from their first rehearsal last September until they boarded the bus to the airport for their flight to Chicago to perform by special invitation in Symphony Hall. The band concluded the concert with a long, extraordinarily demanding and wondrously beautiful piece whose finale left the audience in such stunned silence that it was several strange seconds until they erupted with a standing ovation. It was a once-in-a-lifetime night for all those enormously talented musicians and their director. Through long and hard discipline they conquered their doubts and developed skills once beyond their imagining to reach a goal that had often seemed impossible. They are different people now, able to imagine new and greater visions as stewards of their talents in the kingdom of Jesus Christ. They finished well and it transformed them.
April is like that. Seminary seniors present the results of their study of challenging biblical issues and solutions to ministry problems. Advanced science students post and explain their research findings, and Alpha Chi scholars present papers at national meetings.
On a Friday night I shut down my office computer and walk to the Special Events Center to join Peggi for the annual Academic Honors Banquet. The top junior and senior students in each undergraduate major share a meal with their family and lead professors, who wear their academic regalia as they present the certificates of merit. Many of these students also excel in athletics or music or serve in other areas of campus, community or local church life. These students have mastered more fully than most what it means to live in the image of an omniscient God, to love God more dearly because of understanding more nearly who he is and who we are in his image. This love allows us all to be better stewards of our relationships with him, with ourselves, with other persons and with his earthly creation. These students endured the rigors and finished well. And in the process they are transformed mentally and spiritually.
Walking back to McDonald Hall to gather from my office what I need for the weekend, I hear from the atrium the rich sounds of a wind ensemble as the Pacific Brass, saxophone quartet and woodwind quintet—playfully named Perfect Fourth and No Strings Attached, respectively—complete their final concert of the season. It is arrestingly beautiful. And then the applause and it is over. They, too, finished well.
And so in spring final exams and papers are turned in, the University String Quartet, the Orchestra, the Concert Choir, Men’s Chorus and Women’s Chorale perform their final concerts; the last song of the amazing production of Little Women musical fades away and the final lines of Shakespeare dart the hearts of everyone present. The final art display comes down, the last out is made, the last race is run, the final song is sung and the final message and prayer of blessing resound in the final chapel of the year.
But not all FPU students are on one of our five campuses. One of our outstanding soccer players, Jorge Chedraui, is in his homeland of Ecuador helping in the rescue and recovery efforts after the massive earthquake there that killed more than 600 persons and left at least 25,000 homeless. It takes courage to volunteer for such dangerous duty, strength to endure long days with little sleep and faith to complete the assignment. So we pray for him to finish well this special service to which God has called him. We pray the lessons learned at Fresno Pacific will help him serve others.
Every student who by God’s grace has the courage to begin, the strength to endure and the determination to finish well at what God calls them to do becomes a different person. They become someone more like Christ, someone in whom and through whom the kingdom of God comes more fully. This transformation by the Spirit of God prepares them to lead and follow well in the work of Christ’s kingdom.