(Photo Cred Tomas Turner) Crushed. Conflicted. Confused. These are all words that describe my thoughts, and emotions regarding my alma mater closing. I am able to visit those emotions, again, as I type them. I find myself sitting at my computer, in front of a TV, or on the dock starring out into space; trying to make sense of it all. I desperately cling to whatever song will shuffle next on my phone when I am in the car. As the miles click by in my aimless driving around, I find myself more and more confused, and then there are those tears from nowhere, again. Speaking at the final service was surreal. I had not experienced anything like that day before and part of me thinks I probably never will again. As I was being introduced to speak, I literally could not swallow. My next memory is walking off the stage. It was as if I wasn’t there, at all. I have had the chance to go back and watch it and certainly hope that the Lord was uplifted to all of you who were also looking for a definition for the way you are feeling. I am glad they didn’t have the dorms open for us to visit. It was difficult walking into Cathcart Hall. Some of my best memories in the world occurred in that building with some of my (still) best friends in the world. Seeing Ben Puckett lead the service, with amazing composure was incredible. I closed my eyes and remained silent during all 4 stanza’s of “Holy, Holy, Holy” partly because I can’t sing, but mostly because the sweet tradition and the beautiful sound of parts being added one stanza at a time. Hearing Kris give a testimony with her patented sweetness in her voice and smile on her face was extraordinarily difficult. I knew the road she has ahead of her. Watching people take sports jerseys from the gym was hard. Driving off campus was brutal. I pulled over to the side because I did not want to make that turn onto Gulf to Bay. Cars began to line up behind me, as many felt the same as I. Some were taking pictures and others were just sitting in their cars, waiting for, perhaps, the ability to drive through the tears. I finally did turn onto Gulf to Bay, but I refused to look in the rear view mirror. It turns out that my emotions or reactions to this are not unique to me. I never thought they were. But, I find myself grasping at a way to process all of it, and sometimes I still find my jaw dropped, like it did when I first got the news. And then I hear that still small voice; the voice the represents the center “C” in the name of our beloved alma mater. And now I am responsible to do something with that message, but for now I am grateful for the reminder of why we all loved this place so much; Jesus resided there with us and He was so important to the founders that they put His name in the name of the college; in the center. While we had some precious memories as students, I think we all can agree that under any administration it was the college’s desire and goal to keep Christ centered there and to teach us to keep Him centered in our lives. So, as our little college on the Gulf of Mexico has closed it’s doors, I for one am grateful, that I was taught the importance of the center “C”—and when I forget that and make Him anything but first in my life; there are always consequences. I did that after school and had severe consequences for not keeping Him in the center of my life. There were a lot of people there that day. My hope is that the final chapel served as a reminder to keep Him in the center of our lives. It was evident that some people there had been through difficult times since leaving our little school. I wonder if we asked them what sustained them through difficult times what they would say. I wonder if they (I) can see through the pain and suffering and remember Him for Who He is. He is the Alpha; He is the Omega; He is all- knowing; He is all- powerful; He is everywhere. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. So, yes, He is here during this very dark time for countless people. We have to remember the center “C”—that is the only way we can get through this; it is the only way we can get through life. It’s hard to understand that the same God Who ordained and sustained the school for 50 years is the same God Who ordained it’s closing. It is an incredibly hard pill to swallow; as hard truth often is. Yet it is comforting to know that He is here to comfort us; to provide for us; and to sustain us. The closing of the school equates loss for most of us. Whether it be the loss of a job; the loss of a place to go to college this year; the loss of driving by that beautiful campus and feel the alumni pride; or the loss of a good friend who has to move away; a piece of our hearts is gone. Ironically, the closing of the school has reminded me that HE is the only thing that NEVER CHANGES. He is the One Who will always be there for us. He desires relationship with us; He loves us unconditionally; and He grieves with us. If we are to live a life abandoned to Him, then we are reminded that often means sacrifice; it often means pain; and it always means that Christ is the center of our lives. Not unlike the center “C” in the college we love so much. Our anthem now is to remember we were commissioned from college to shine a light on Jesus; to be a picture of Jesus; to follow Jesus and to make Him the center of our lives and to teach others to do the same. “Oh Christ be the center of our lives; be the place we fix our eyes; Be the center of our lives. And You’re the center of the Universe, Everything was made in You, Jesus Breath on every living thing; Everyone as made for You. And we lift our eyes to heaven, and we wrap our lives around Your life; we lift our eyes to heaven, to You. Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face; and the things on Earth will go strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace”–Charlie Hall
Comforted. Challenged. Charged. That is how I feel now.