My Fathers

I stood in the laundry room with piles of clothes at my feet, feeling my dad’s arms wrap around me and his scruffy beard scratch my forehead as he kissed me, whispering, “I am proud of you.” Hours later, I boarded my Williams-bound plane, my eyes moist with tears and my heart bursting with love for the family I was leaving behind.

I cherished my dad’s words of affirmation because his praise, though infrequent, is thoughtful and meaningful. The development of my relationship with my dad has involved a tension between my high regard for and my fear of him. Even though I’m not “afraid” of him per se, I am intimidated by his intellectual superiority. My recent high school diploma pales in comparison to his numerous graduate degrees. When I was younger, I hesitated to confide in him because I worried about sounding immature. Over time, my dad has shown me through his words and actions that he loves me completely, imperfections and all. We are close now; I ask him for advice and tell him stories about Williams, and he asks me lots of questions.

Even though I see my dad as superior, his love has opened the door for us to have a close relationship. Similarly, God’s love bridges the gap between His perfection and my humanity so that God and I can have a deeply personal relationship. For some unfathomable reason, the indescribable God of the universe desires intimate relationships with human beings, including me. Acknowledging God’s greatness and accepting His love brings me closer to Him. The fact that He is perfect but still loves me makes me want to get to know Him better. Like many relationships, the process of getting closer involves daily communication. I like to write and pray to God, and I listen for His responses as I sit in silence, sing worship songs, or read the Bible. I can interact intimately with God because Jesus’ death and resurrection made a way for me to commune with Him. I do not have to worry about sounding immature when I talk to God because although He is so much greater than me, He will never reject me.

As we grow closer, God’s love and acceptance help me trust Him more. I remember drawing a series of doors and windows in my prayer journal senior year, labeling them with the various colleges to which I had applied. I prayed, “God, have Your way with me. Open and shut doors.” I thought He wanted me to go to Dartmouth, so when I was deferred in the fall of my senior year, I felt angry and confused. Through prayer, God helped me realize that Williams was a better fit for me. There is a verse in the Bible that captures how God can take away something good and give something better. It reads, “Instead of bronze I [God] will bring you gold, and silver in place of iron…I will make peace your governor and well-being your ruler.”1 God took away my potential Dartmouth acceptance, but he was giving me a positive Williams experience instead. When I feared God, I realized that I did not have to be scared of the outcome of my college applications because God knows and loves me fully. My perfect God answered my prayers by giving me otherworldly peace throughout the college process and making it abundantly clear my senior spring that He wanted me to go to Williams.

Even though I fear both my dad and God, their unconditional love invites me to be in close relationships with them. Drawing close to God and fearing Him is a continuous process in my life, just like the apostle Paul instructed to the early church in Philippi, I “continue to work out [my] salvation with fear and trembling.”2

FOOTNOTES:
1 Isaiah 60:17, NIV.
2 Philippians 2:12b, NIV, emphasis added

Originally published in The Williams Telos Issue 14, FEAR 

Written by Sarah Gantt ’23

Waking Up Slowly: A Telos Thoughts Reflection

In the morning, I see sunlight

The pillow feels cold on my cheek
But my body is warm under the blankets
No alarm
Just quiet

Glug glug – flushing toilet
Chush chush – brushing teeth
Splash splash – washing face

In the afternoon, I see mountains

The mask feels sticky on my face
But my body is refreshed by the fall breeze
No variation
Just uphill

Thud thud – running feet
Whiz whiz – driving car
Peh peh – breathing runners

In the evening, I see faces

The chair feels stiff against my back
But my body is relaxed among friends
No in-person interaction
Just Zoom

Chi chi – hearing background noise
Ding ding – receiving notifications
Bwahah bwahah – echoing laughter

In the meantime, I see You

Lord, I see you in the sunlight, the mountains, and the faces of my friends. Please awaken me to your beauty and goodness. Thank you, my Sweetness, my Savior, for redeeming the tooth brushing and the Zoom calling and everything in between. Come revive this world, and revive this heart. Amen.

Written by Sarah Gantt ’23

Planting Sorrow: An Artist’s Response to Psalm 126

Those who sow with tears
    will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.
Psalm 126:5-6

When I read these Bible verses this morning, I was struck with a vivid image of a woman on her knees, sadly sowing seeds in the distance while another woman, smiling triumphantly, ran toward me, her arms overflowing with wheat. I decided that I had to draw this image, so I set my schoolwork aside and devoted my entire day to capturing it – something I could do thanks to the flexibility my quarantine schedule allowed.

I realized that even though the joyful woman was in the foreground of the picture in my head, sorrow and anguish were central to her story. As a result, I chose to have a crying woman with her face in her hands as my focal point. Initially, I saw the sorrowful sowing and triumphant reaping as separate events, but as I drew, they became more connected. Something clicked: sheaves of wheat are the fruit of tears. In other words, tears are the seeds, the starting point, the origin of the sheaves.

Often, I struggle to recognize my sorrow as a legitimate emotion, but this winter when I was homesick at Williams, a friend recommended that I sit in my sorrow and really let it sink in. These verses remind me that sorrow is not something to be brushed aside or ignored. Instead, sorrow should be planted. But what does that mean?

Planting sorrow can look like praying to God at two in the morning, holding my face in my hands, thinking quietly, and listening to sad songs. Yet when a seed is planted, it also becomes hidden and removed from sight. In that respect, planting sorrow also can look like giggling with my sisters as we dance together, cooking with my mom, and working out with my dad. 

Many of us may be planting sorrow during COVID-19, desperately waiting for something to grow. However, when you plant seeds, you need to physically let go of the seed so that it can fall into the dirt and begin to grow. There is a releasing of control over your sorrow, and we need to trust God for the eventual harvest. I want to remind us that growth takes patience. In the Bible, God is tremendously patient with His chosen people, the Israelites. He urges them to return to Him for hundreds of years before sending them into exile. But that’s not the end of the story – He ultimately saves them and frees them from their captors. God promises us that He has already made everything beautiful in its time.[1]

As God’s people, I do not think that we are at the point of returning with songs of joy quite yet, but there is hope that God will completely transform our sorrow into singing as we turn our hearts to Him. Let’s keep planting.

*Artist’s note: The blue lines extending off the page represent how this cycle of sorrow and joy is ongoing.

[1] Ecclesiastes 3:11

Written by Sarah Gantt ’23