A History of Change: The Unexpected Story

“Only God can use crooked sticks to draw a straight line.” This oft-quoted line reminds us of a truth-claim from our faith. That truth insists that God is less concerned about finding the perfect person to accomplish a task. Rather, God is first concerned to find willing participants whom God will use to make the perfect happen. A common perfect thread woven through imperfect people embroiders an image of promise on the tapestry that is God’s story for us. A quick glace over the narrative of God’s people confirms this precept, establishing a poignant pattern.

Consider the story of Abraham and Sarah. Not only are they in the wrong place, they are the wrong age to become the new father and mother of a yet-to-be-born nation. Or, how about Jacob? Jacob was the second-born, trickster who deceives his brother and father, conspires with his mother, runs away from home, is conned by his father-in-law, only to return home hoping a wave of gifts will appease his brother’s presumed anger. On the other hand, let us take Joseph: the less-than-humble younger son of Jacob who finds himself in the bottom of a pit only to rise to summit of Egyptian politics. Or, how about David: the youngest son of an obscure shepherd in an out-of-the-way town who becomes king only to slip ingloriously from the pedestal of propriety. Or what about the leadership offered by women like Deborah in a time when women were the last you would expect to find guiding a nation; or the faithfulness of a woman from outside the faith named Ruth that became the grandmother of a king; or the unlikely heroine of Israel named Rahab who was both prostitute and improbable friend; or a young girl named Mary who risked saying “yes” to God when saying “no” made much more sense? This does not even take into account the dubious characters written into this story like Thomas the doubter, Peter the impetuous, Judas the betrayer, or Paul the persecutor. Clearly, this represents more than just a single thread but a broad pattern making a defining image.

In addition, this image of perfection through the imperfect is not isolated but extends across time and space. More than once and closer to home, God uses a seemingly imperfect choice to accomplish a larger purpose. Consider the failure of a young minister—John Wesley—whose disgrace in Georgia became the foundation for success in England . . . and eventually Georgia, too. What about the selection of a small, obscure place, isolated from influence and prospects but imbedded in providence and possibility that grew when growth was difficult and flourished despite unreasonable odds?

For more than one hundred years, Young Harris College has emerged as a place where God’s unexpected story is not just told but woven directly into that larger image of God’s perfecting imperfection. Probably not the most reasonable location to start a new educational institution in 1886, this valley has become an inspiring success for generations of students because of hard work, good guidance, and the abiding presence of a God committed to greater things, greater than we might sensibly imagine. One of those greater things is faith that our work and mission are greater than we are and serve a larger purpose than simply instilling knowledge where knowledge had not been before. As a college of the church, YHC has been and remains committed to nurturing the soul and serving the world. As long as we remain focused on those enduring principles of knowledge joined to vital piety, our College will remain tightly woven to providence’s fabric, providing the perfecting grace that lead lives in service to God’s kingdom. Join us this week at our chapel service as we recount those first 125 years and the lively and dynamic faith nurtured through this place and look toward the future as we struggle to grasp the tread of our own perfecting story that will be embroidered onto the our small part of the tapestry of faith still unfinished, requiring our lives’ threads to complete.

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