Jay De Man


College life is not always and all the time sunshine. I sometimes wonder how to approach this blog. I write to invite you here, hoping that the broad base of my experiences will show you the wide range of joys I grow in knowing, joys I honestly attribute in whole or in part to Calvin. And I write now, supposing it is true that if I am seeking to show you how joy propounds throughout, that message is not lessened (rather, it is increased) in making you aware of the complex realities here. 

It is a convivial thing to be here, living together. The confluence of factors which produces Calvin (only Calvin when in motion, remember?) has not only its positive result (Calvin!) but also its negative result (what Calvin is not, for what Calvin cannot account). It is those very things that make college distinct, that round out the dome of its bubble. These also mark out the places of pain, challenge, disharmony. When something is chosen, what (we must ask) is not?

I sat with a dear friend last evening. Both of us had heads throbbing from the thousands of words we had read, and some yet more to read. However, the story in eyes required its own space, and so, torn from texts, we took time to speak with each other. And in this, those negative conditions (what, we ask, is not chosen?) came into their fiercest force: the grief of what cannot be, ought not be, that itself we imagine as lovely. The grief of decisions made and unmade that introduce uncertainty.

 Grand Rapids, in preparation just before our new autumn. 

Grand Rapids, in preparation just before our new autumn. 

My floor, my beloved floor is ablaze in spirit: that particular incandescence which shows the conversion of flowing time's current into illumination for all; it radiates from these bodies. That spirit does not easily let run fresh water through cupped palms. We spend time with buckets for retaining the truth, sharing with one another. And so I see in them that fierce desire to not let anything run past, to always be becoming with all energy. Where this strays into idolatry, where hard choices must be made about what to study, who to spend time with, what to cultivate—a weariness and grieving may begin.

The pain of choice without perfect knowledge demonstrates a need for lament; the privilege of decision creates the conditions for confession. We neither know how to make much of what we've been given, nor do we know how to choose what is good. Pain reveals a warp, the weft belongs to hope. Pain shows by position the unfilled spaces another love than self ought to occupy. 

So as I spoke with him, receiving the weight of his desire to serve, hearing where he had erred, I came also into my own pain. How often do I desire to do well, but receive the reasons for this desire from my own fear of amounting to anything at all, rather from that perfect whisper, that pristine call to only following? And when I feel the weight to determine myself, do I turn to confession, do I despair? 

From Julien Baker, an artist who recently graced Calvin with such lamentation and confession:

But I think there’s a God and he hears either way when I rejoice and complain
Lift my voice that I was made
And somebody’s listening at night with the ghosts of my friends when I pray
Asking ‘Why did you let them leave and then make me stay?’
Know my name and all of my hideous mistakes
But I rejoice. I rejoice. I rejoice. I rejoice.
— Julien Baker, "Rejoice"
 At the end of everything, there is always a cat in the art gallery. 

At the end of everything, there is always a cat in the art gallery.