While flipping through a book of written student responses to an art collection published by a different college, the picture of an oil painting caught my attention. I shuffled back to the page. Finding no pattern or obvious meaning at first glance, the swirls and dots of the paint confused me. My bored eyes wandered to the opposite page featuring the undergraduate’s essay about the piece. Methodically and unpredictably, the student deconstructed the painting and confessed his associations with it. His words were bold, eloquent, and carried me into the painting alongside of him. At the end of the essay, my eyes stared at the painting once more. Everything was different. Its form was alive, it had been given significance, and I had been made richer through its discovery.
An idea germinated in my mind. My education at Wheaton College had given me what I believed it would: a well-rounded exposure to a range of academic disciplines, deep relationships with faculty, students, and staff, and extra-curricular activities that challenged me to confront new perspectives, assume responsibility, and presented opportunities to discover my core, created passions. Yet as I considered the landscape of my past four years at Wheaton, I realized that the gifts of this faith-based, liberal arts education have run much deeper than my expectations. It has challenged me to live and to think holistically, integrating and uniting all aspects of my identity and the gifts with which I have been entrusted under the truth of gospel emancipation.
Following the publication of Liberal Arts for the Christian Life, the higher-education model of the liberal arts held a prominent place in discussions on campus. The book serves well as our faculty and administration’s voice for the enduring place of the liberal arts in a world with quickly evolving educational emphases. What I realized that day, while reading the student’s analysis of the aesthetics and meanings of the oil painting, was that Wheaton needed its own educational monument. Liberal Arts for the Christian Life needed a student response. The true value of a Wheaton education has always and will ever exist in the beings of its students; its purpose is to nourish and to challenge us in pursuit of the truth of the cross as we are in turn pursued by the Spirit of its power. We are created, eternal works of art and only we can testify of Wheaton’s significance within the formation of our fabrics.
Featured here are the winners of their categories in the new senior essay competition, WheatonReflects: 2013. They stand as the students’ own interpretations of the influence of Wheaton’s faith and liberal arts integration upon their education and selves. I read these essays with reverent rumination over the Lord’s doings within the lives of my classmates. The stories written here are not simply ending testaments but future assurances. That which the Creator has begun, He has perfectly planned to completion. While few aesthetics are appreciated by all, for those who love Christ, the instinct for the eternal is our fulcrum of unity. Please read these essays in celebration of the eternal beauty being patterned in the lives of each member of Wheaton’s Class of 2013. May their stories inspire a moment when you stop to reflect on its etchings in your own life.