Sunday, March 31, 2013

Overwhelmed by Grace

After Jesus’ resurrection, Peter and the other disciples took their fishing boat out on the Sea of Tiberias. There they fished through the night but caught nothing. In the early morning, they heard a man from the shore call out to them to cast their net on the right side of the boat. They did and “were unable to haul the net because of the large number of fish.” (John 21:6) John then recognized that the stranger was Jesus, and Peter joyfully jumped into the water. When they reached the shore they counted the overwhelming number of 153 fish in the net, and they ate a meal with Jesus.

I love the way that Peter’s joy comes not from the huge catch of fish, but from realizing that it’s really Jesus. His eyes were on the Giver, not the gift.

 “Overwhelmed by grace,” is what CJ wrote on facebook. “So thankful for the ways God has blessed me beyond imagination, beyond what I deserve.”

For his whole life, CJ has loved to learn.
He has always been serious about his studies and has pushed himself academically.
He’s more self-motivated than anyone I know.
And he dreams big.

But really. Harvard?

As CJ considered what colleges he wanted to visit last summer and where to apply, Harvard seemed to be a definite long shot. Yes, he did well on the SAT. But doesn’t everyone who applies there?

He did his best on his application and left the results to God.

Last month a Harvard alumni in Beijing contacted him to see about setting up an interview. Our family talked realistically about whether it was worth it for him to make a special trip to Beijing. What were the chances he would get in anyway? But the timing worked out perfectly so that on his way back from his expense-paid NYU-Abu Dhabi Candidate Weekend in the U.A.E., the alumni was able to meet him at the Beijing airport, and they found an empty table at Kentucky Fried Chicken for the interview. Amazingly, one of the things they talked about was what it was like to be a Christian at Harvard. A woman from Harvard’s Admissions Office contacted him about an additional skype interview, saying that being homeschooled in China made him an unusual applicant and they wanted to get as much information about him as they could. During the skype interview, CJ learned that she had actually lived in China for five years!

Last week CJ flew back to the United States for a Finalist Weekend at Notre Dame for the Hesburgh Yusko leadership scholarship. Notre Dame generously paid for his round trip ticket, including an additional 5 days to visit our families in Denver and Kansas City before flying home.

Two days ago, while he was in Denver with my parents and my sister’s family, we received the unexpected news that he was accepted to Harvard. And we continued to be amazed as God filled his net with even more fish—acceptances from Yale, Stanford, NYU-Abu Dhabi, the Notre Dame scholarship and Georgetown. He could just as easily have gotten rejection letters (as he did from the University of Chicago and Yale’s program in Singapore). But God chose to open these six doors of opportunity. By His grace. And we feel overwhelmed.

From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.” (John 1:16)

Looking back on CJ’s application process last fall, I remember that one of the issues we wrestled with was how much to focus on our faith. We wanted to honor God while being aware of our audience. In the end we decided to just be open and upfront about what was most important to us.

I really like the way Charly described our homeschool education CJ’s School Profile:

Our mode of education has granted us the flexibility as a family to be more mobile and remain together without disrupting our children’s learning. Here in our new location they have also had the privilege of experiencing first-hand how the cultures of China’s ethnic minorities add extra color and flavor to this land they know as ‘home.’

Sonlight Curriculum has been the central component of our home-based education. The “core program” of Sonlight Curriculum “weaves together a year's worth of History and Geography, Bible, Literature, and Language Arts.” Quality materials are also provided for key subject areas such as mathematics and science. Sonlight expresses their goal as helping parents “raise children who love to learn, love God and have the academic preparation to do whatever Christ calls them to do.” This statement resonates deeply with us and succinctly identifies key values that are highly esteemed in our family.

Love to learn: A passion for learning encompasses several key ideas that we seek to combine in our family. We believe ‘good stories’ are powerful and effective so we appreciate the central emphasis on reading great literature and biographies. ‘Learning to think’ and being ‘discontent with easy answers’ are prominent values we hold, thus we embrace the way Sonlight exposes our kids to differing viewpoints. A ‘global outlook’ is at the heart of who we are as a family, therefore Sonlight’s international focus echoes our desire for our children to appreciate the diversity in our world and to engage with people and cultures far different than our own.

  Love God: Our family’s commitment to ‘following Jesus’ means we strive in all that we do to obey him and to imitate how he lived his life. The Gospel of Luke records that in his youth Jesus grew in wisdom, stature and in favor with God and men; so we also desire for our children to grow intellectually, physically, spiritually, and relationally. We aspire to live integrated lives, with God at the center of all we do.

  Academic preparation: We are convinced that a true love for learning and an enthusiasm to please God should naturally contribute to a ‘pursuit of excellence.’ Within the broad context of inspiring our kids to become lifelong learners, we want to help them during this unique time in their lives as full-time students and to encourage them to make the most of every opportunity and to realize their full potential.

  To fulfill a calling: We want our children to approach ‘learning with a purpose.’ There is a far greater vision than the simple accumulation of knowledge. We want our children to make a positive difference in the world so we work together with them to help them become instruments that will bring about transformation in their generation.
And I really like how CJ answered several of his college application essays about his vision:
            Model United Nations has provided an intellectual basis to consider world issues, while my personal experiences paint a vivid picture of their reality and urgency. Social justice, along with international development, drives me for another reason. My faith is not merely my worldview, my compilation of personal beliefs on the universe, rather it is the way I seek to live my life. I want to model my life after Jesus, who was dedicated to the marginalized and outcast, and who condemned the religious hypocrites who ignored them.

            In recent years, as I began assessing my college path, one of the first dilemmas I identified was whether or not I would attend a Christian college. On one hand, Christian schools offer a certain warmth, a sense of stability as I prepare to transition from my home in China to my passport country, the US. However, my purpose in life is not to be comfortable, but rather to be challenged and to grow in my ability to bless others. In light of this, I have set my sights on prestigious academic schools that offer greater opportunities to relate with people from different backgrounds and also to open doors to positions of influence.

            I take to heart the words of Gary Haugen, CEO of International Justice Mission: “Fighting injustice and oppression in the world... will require sacrifice. It will require hard work. It will require downward mobility in which you choose to serve the poor at the expense of becoming rich. It will require our best people serving as multi-disciplinary experts in our world. Consider excelling in your studies to be your primary way of serving and glorifying God as a student.” I want to glorify God not only by making a positive impact on local communities here and now, but by effectively preparing myself to tackle world issues and to engage with people of power. This motivates me to pursue a top-tier academic education with a vision for transforming the world.

            My passion for international relations is driven by an understanding that on my own, I can not achieve transformation. But there is one who can. My love for God and reliance upon His strength empowers me to love my neighbor and pursue global justice and peace.

            I not only want to develop myself to my full potential and grow in the gift of wisdom, but I also want to be filled with a passion and a vision to fulfill my calling.

May these words that CJ wrote be true of his life and his future:

My true citizenship is in Heaven and my eternal passport is not of this world. At the same time, God has placed me in the world right now as His ambassador to be a blessing.

Blessed to be a blessing.
True for all of us.
May we live our lives worthy of our calling.

To God be the glory.
Great things He has done.

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