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The life cycle of a human: transformative powers of college

February 22, 2016

by Shelli Bunn-Petterson, class of 2005 and 2008

When anyone looks at a college or spiritual journey—which are sometimes one and the same—they see some form of transformation. My spiritual and personal transformation began when I stepped onto the NNU campus in the fall of 1999 and continues today.

The Egg—
Life with the ’rents.

I grew up in a fairly typical Nazarene home. Childhood consisted of scripture memorization combined with the ABCs, Caravans and story time at the library, sibling rivalry and snuggles with the folks. None of it was perfect but, as a whole, it was pretty idyllic. Then I became autonomous … yikes!

Caterpillar: feeding time—
Politics, pop-culture, and peer pressure

My teenage years were, well, rough. Though I had been taught to behave and follow the dictates of my moral code, life and situations produced a strong rebellious spirit. To me, God was no longer a benevolent Father, watching over me with loving arms ready to guide me towards His perfect plan for me. He, if He was really there, became an apathetic observer who declined involving Himself in the simplistic details of my trivial existence. More life, more difficulty, and I became truly convinced that God might be one big propaganda campaign, designed by society to control the plebeians that made up its population.

Deism replaced agnosticism midway into my freshman year at NNU. I enjoyed my time playing sports and going to classes (most of the time … ) but was missing out on much of the transformation that should have been happening. Timing is everything, and I wasn’t ready to make changes.

But life has a way of changing you, ready or not. At the end of my sophomore year of college I found out that I was pregnant. I took my finals as my mind was overwhelmed with an image of me sporting my scarlet letter, a modern incarnation of Hester Prinn.

The Pupa—
Volte-face

I took the next year off of school to have a baby and marry; I came back to NNU a new woman. Where before this unexpected role of mother I was brash and rebellious, always looking for oppression and responding with rebellion in every circumstance, I suddenly found myself grasping at the opportunities in life.

My new family was poor—we were young and unready for the role of parenthood—but we also wanted to make a wonderful life for our beautiful son. Returning to NNU was hard, but the university became the platform that would help us reach our next destination. I played another year of basketball, tore my ACL, and then owned the fact that it was time to move onto a new dream.

I got a job as a section editor with “The Crusader,” and working at the NNU paper was life changing. I know, crazy, but it was through this endeavor that I met some of my best friends and began to look at what kind of woman I was and wanted to become. Life was different than I had imagined, but it was a positive change.

The Adult —
#tbt

Life tends to come full circle. I learned about a job at NNU in Admissions through one of my fellow “Crusader” editors, and in that position I worked with one of my former volleyball teammates. Although returning to NNU was yet again humbling, the community continued to influence my life. My former teammate and I decided to enroll in the NNU APP Education Program to earn our teaching certificates and master’s degrees, and then worked together for several years at a local high school.

I am raising my children alongside my college friends. We’ve created our village of support from those friendships that were formed in the halls of Wiley, in the upstairs offices of the Student Center, and in the twilight hours at One More Cup. I began attending Nampa First Church of the Nazarene because those same two individuals who I knew from college and worked with in Admissions attended that church, along with many other friends, making it an easy home for my husband and I. Three of our four children have been dedicated at Nampa First, and I have found a church family there that supports and challenges me.

I don’t think I’ll ever be called on to be a missionary to the masses. I’m still flawed, but I’m also the woman that God has been shaping me to be. My choices are sometimes reminiscent of the brash teenager that couldn’t see God beyond her own struggle and defiance, but that is not what’s important. My children are getting their scripture memorization alongside their ABCs, going to storytime as well as Benson Buddies and AWANA classes. I seek a relationship with God, not because I have proof of His existence or because it results in an easy life, but because I have hope that He is with me. I grasp hold of the promise that if I seek Him, He will find me. My faith is founded in the hope that nothing is wasted in the power and purpose of God, even the stumbling and seeming triviality of my own life cycle.

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