Baby Steps

Although creation is beautiful, I sometimes forget that the world is a dangerous place full of uncertainties. I grappled with this unsettling reality during my first Mountain Day experience.

After admiring the picturesque mountains and savoring warm apple cider donuts on top of Stony Ledge, two friends and I began our descent on a relatively flat path. I was walking steadily until the trail began to narrow. It was when I looked down after a quick slip that I suddenly had several realizations. The mountain was higher and steeper than I had thought, and there were wet leaves covering potential obstacles. I started hyperventilating from my fear of heights, and my tears began to blur my surroundings. I gripped my friend’s hand and took baby steps while my panic grew with each additional slip.

As I was gradually being consumed by my worries, a branch cracked under my feet. My ankles sharply pivoted to the right, and I collapsed on the ground. I could not stand up on my own. I felt helpless and worried that my injuries were severe. I wept as I imagined Satan laughing at my struggles and weighing me down with doubt. 

The wind intensified, and the sky began to dim. I desperately prayed to God for any source of help and waited in silence as my friends patted my back comfortingly. My prayers were eventually answered when a few students and the Williams Outing Club director found me. They attached braces to my legs and carried me down the mountain, alternating who carried me every 100 feet. With my arms and legs being lifted by my rescuers, I felt like a physical burden. I responded apologetically when everyone assured me, “You’re doing great.”

After several hours, we safely arrived at the base of the mountain. During the ride back to campus, I called my mom and was disheartened to hear her cry. She became more concerned when I eventually had to be transported to the hospital in an ambulance. Luckily, my bones were not broken, and I would be able to walk gradually with a cane. Hobbling around campus for several days, I realized that I had been taking the ability to walk for granted. 

I was relocated into a temporary dorm with fewer stairs. Being physically isolated from my friends, even over a small distance, made me feel alone and locked in my own reality. I felt more guilt than gratitude when friends visited me, causing me to communicate less with others.

I talked to God about my conflicting emotions during the nights I was alone in my room. I expressed to Him my fear of relying on others and my worries of knowing that my parents were more concerned for my well-being than I was. I felt nervous to ask my friends for favors and potentially disrupt their busy schedules. I wanted an immediate solution, but I continued to struggle on my own because of my stubbornness, and I cried out to God in frustration. 

Then God told me to pause and look beyond myself to the people who love me. I thought about how my family and friends were worried when I brushed off their concerns and lied to them that my life was okay. By isolating myself, I was rejecting opportunities for their help. My fears were a barrier from realizing that the recovery process would be difficult unless I sought out guidance. 

Taking little steps toward Him, I started to accept God’s help that was provided through people’s concerns and compassion. My parents sent me medicine, leg braces, and comforting text messages. My friends supported me when I had the courage to ask – they turned in my assignments, held my hand when walking down the streets, prayed for me, and gave me hugs. Through moments of practicing vulnerability, I learned to walk in trust and deepened my relationships with those who love me. 

I had hoped to overcome my fear as my ankles healed, but my current reality tells otherwise. For simple tasks like walking to class, I am overly cautious, and I walk slowly on slippery sidewalks. Even now, I am still learning to cast my fears on God. When I do, He reminds me that He is with me every step I take.

Originally published in The Williams Telos Issue 14, FEAR

Written by Esther Kim ’23

A Sparrow’s Prayer


Above me sparrows chirp,
they chirp like sirens
Hoping to get your attention
What do they say?
God, how can I pray
As fervent and fearless as they?
I can hear my grandma saying,
“One offense is all it takes,
For the stony ancestors to sweep us with hurricanes.”
And it did rain.
It rained for days and days,
The waters flooded to our waists,
Until my father’s brown car
And my mother’s golden dowry were swallowed in haste.
– Or at least, that’s what she said.
“You see, the red statues will not hesitate.”
I wish to ignore her, to overlook that ancient coldness
But to be warm, You know that I lack the boldness –

Something wouldn’t let me
The time, it was not yet ready.
Until the waters sedated and settled low
All things covered were shown
Then I woke from a slumber
I thought, I was surely ready for eternity, though –


But this weight never does go away,
With every Song I sing it detaches, but still remains
It remains –
I can’t help but wonder, what if you are the same?
As the night grows older
I feel it looming behind my shoulders
Your echoing I cares
They’re leaving me like your breaths leaving my interior
Are you not worth more than sparrows? they whisper,
But how can they in the sky deliver to you their sounds
While now, mine seems only to sink deeper underground?

I have to ask –
Do you care as much about me
As you care about them?
The sparrows, the grey and amber sparrows
Whom you colored and livened with your words.
Or the lilies, the gloriously arrayed flowers,
Into the grasses they so easily merge but do not disappear.
Do you adore me just as much?
But how much does it take you to do as such?
Cleansing me with your blood,
Hearing my heartbeat from under the suffocating mud.
There was my fearful hand,
You held it with yours.
So that the wind, Job’s whirlwind,
And fire, Moses’ bushfire,
Help me stand again in your promised land.
Gently, but with your gentle force,
Bless my spirit and yours –
they shall never ever drift to divorce –

Draw me in, please
Draw in my family
That heat can’t be warmer,
You say, this is my daughter,
With whom I am well-pleased.
I’ve been waiting so long, and finally
To live forever in your stable sanctuary –

After I became a Christian, I did not have all my fears reduced and resolved. In fact, in a sense, I have single-handedly divorced a part of myself that seemingly secured me–my ancestry, my goals for living, my source of explanations. Sometimes, I still wonder about to whom I am praying, who is responding to me, and which “god” people see through me. My inherent fears about destiny, about natural disasters, about inevitable cycles, about divorces and fracturing of relationships, about the arbitrary cruelness of the universe, about being isolated and neglected, were still very much deeply rooted inside, even after those rejuvenating waters of baptism had washed over me. I have realized that as ready as I am for eternity, between then and now still exists a long period of time–my life. And in this life, I still fear being unpolished, unnoticed, unheard, unloved, probably just as much as anybody.

But our God is unique in that He is not a distant God who expects us to somehow achieve perfection; He is the one who guides. I have begun to realize that this hollow part within me is destined to be fulfilled by our Maker, who polishes, notices, hears, and loves us. I am not yet a fearless person, but I have decided that I will not live life in my way, or with any other “gods”–I can only do it with the God whose steady hand patiently holds onto mine, while His perfection overwhelms my weakness.

Originally published in The Williams Telos Issue 14, FEAR

Written by Catherine Chen ’23

Reflections on 2020: Comfort & Joy

Recently, the Williams Telos Board invited members of the Telos community to reflect on 2020 and share their challenges, comforts, and joys. We sent out an anonymous form and created a visual representation of the collected responses.

If you haven’t already, we encourage you to take some time to think about your 2020 and check out this short reflection guide we made centered around the themes of comfort and joy

Graphic created by Sarah Gantt ’23

Loving Temporal and Eternal Things: A Telos Thoughts Reflection

Doris Lee, Thanksgiving, 1935, American, The Art Institute of Chicago.

At our Telos Thoughts meeting on Saturday, November 7, we had the chance to reflect on love and loss. Exploring an excerpt from book 4 of Augustine’s Confessions, we thought about temporal and eternal things we love and how they influence our personal lives. In the passage we read, Augustine acknowledges the dangers of focusing on temporal things but also proposes that temporal things are beautiful parts of God’s creation. Everything will end, but each thing does have its time. When we recognize God’s role in this, loving temporal things can be a path towards embracing creation and God’s magnificence. During our meeting, we thought deeply about how this could guide our appreciation for God and our love of other people. We can acknowledge and embody the infinite nature of God by loving others not only for their presence in our lives, but also because of their eternal spirits as children of God.

“[Temporal] things pass away so that others might take their place, and all its parts together make up this lowly universe: but the Word of God says, ‘Will I ever depart and go elsewhere?’ Fix your dwelling place in him, O my soul; entrust to him whatever you have from this world.”
-Augustine’s Confessions, book 4, chapter 16

Written by Paige Anna Busse ’24


Photo taken by Maddie Annis ’23

How will I ever know You
You are everything to me
I feel You in a sweet embrace
In the piercing autumn breeze

How will I ever understand You
So worthy, so grand
Yet You came as a babe to save
And even now stretch out Your hand

How will I ever know enough to love You
As well as You love me
I’m caught up in the infinite
In all Your intricacies

How will I ever be enough
How could I ever
I fail each day and more
Beat down by the wind and weather

How can it be that You see me
Know me and lavish me with Your love
And You don’t worry if I can
For all that I am comes from above

Written by Anna Leedy ’22

Where is the Church?: A Telos Thoughts Reflection

We had a Telos Thoughts meeting on Saturday, October 10 where we listened to an excerpt from episode 2 of Take Me to Church, a podcast created and hosted by Dasol Lee ’21. After reflecting on some questions, we collaborated on a collage of ideas, issues, and themes we wanted the current Church to speak on and engage themselves in.

Created by: Catherine Chen, Sarah Gantt, Joshua Hewson, Esther Kim, Bemnet Mengistu, Andrew Nachamkin, Rebecca Park, Christie Yang

Every other Saturday at 11 am ET, Telos Thoughts meets to engage with a Christian intellectual medium (readings, podcasts, or videos) and reflect on it together. Email [email protected] for a Zoom link to join!

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

Black Lives Matter

The Williams Telos believes that every person is fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God. The deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and countless others are not only injustices against the Black community but also injustices against the Creator. Black lives matter. We lament their deaths as a part of the longer, systemic racism against our Black brothers and sisters that ultimately points to the problem of sin in our society. As those who hope in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are not called to be silent. We are not called to be complacent. We must recognize our responsibility as believers to pray for and work toward justice in our homes, communities, and cities.

To our non-Black Christians, we urge you to speak and act in a manner worthy of the calling we’ve received. To walk in Christ-likeness is to listen, learn, and engage. Listen to your Black brothers and sisters who are suffering. Engage in uncomfortable conversations about race and privilege. Learn about ways to support the Black community emotionally, socially, politically, financially. Do the work. And above all, pray to God for healing, reconciliation, and justice.

Written by the Telos Board

Sitting in the Rubble, a Poem by Inez Tan ’12

Sitting in the Rubble
by Inez Tan

Still, outwardly,
I go to work, I cook my meals,
I do my laundry, as though
my life consisted of acts like these.
Six of my friends lose a child,
three get into car accidents,
two survive shootings,
and only one says,
“It’s not a competition,” meaning
we shouldn’t believe we have to win
as if only the winner gets to grieve
while the rest of us bleed empathy.
Through it all, I think of you.
Every day, I miss you.
Happy are the brokenhearted,
for they do not condemn
what they have come to understand.

Originally published in Zocalo Public Square, May 8, 2020.

Written by Inez Tan ’12, a former Editor-in-Chief of The Williams Telos

The Table You’ve Prepared

For the past couple of days, I’ve had a line from UPPERROOM’s song “Surrounded (Fight My Battles)” stuck in my head. 

There’s a table that You’ve prepared for me
In the presence of my enemies

In my head, I pictured that table, a table overflowing with good food macaroni and cheese, broiled fish, 北京烤鸭 (Peking duck), iced tea, cake. Then, using old copies of The New Yorker, I created it.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Psalm 23:4-6

Living during these COVID-19 times can feel like walking through a shadowy valley of darkness and death. Yet because I know that God is with me, I have no reason to fear. None of us do. Not only does He comfort us, but he also sets a table, invites us to sit down, and delights as we feast.

Written by Rebecca Park ’22