My Eyes Are More Open
For the past two years I have been in graduate school (MPA-MS) at Indiana University, where I specialize in environmental policy and natural resource management. This summer I am excited to work as a policy intern with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission in Washington D.C. This fall will be my final semester of my graduate program and I will pursue a job in environmental consulting.
My year in the Chattanooga Fellows Program was profoundly transformative. This investment of time not only benefited me in the present, but each day going forward. It has not been an easy ride through school, but the Fellows Program influenced me to where I think back to a retreat, class, memory, etc. at least once a day. What I’ve learned has steered me and will continue to play a role in God’s work of leading me in truth and light (Psalm 43:3). He used people, words, and my surroundings to open my eyes slightly more than they were before.
I know more deeply that “non-church” jobs are not “less spiritual”, but rather are just as rife with opportunity to be faithful. Our ministerial presences matter. Our work in these areas have eternal implications. The work of a janitor is no less important than that of a city mayor. I often depend on these truths when I feel like environmental work doesn’t matter if God is just going to renew it all anyway. He cares that we are mysteriously part of his work, he invites us into it.
A pillar of the program is community, “leaning” into it as we commonly heard. We chuckled then, but the power of choosing community in your life is real and can change everything. My home church has been a highlight of my time in Bloomington, Indiana, as I applied what I learned.
By committing to the local church, we enact how God designed his people to live in this broken world. We live a life with true friendship and connection. We practice selflessness by seeing we all come from different places but have the same deep-rooted need for Christ. We can team up to seek justice and love mercy for those in our community within and outside the church (Micah 6:8). Most importantly, we see Jesus move among us building a space for Him (Ephesians 2:22).
An area of fascination for me was and is learning about the interconnection between foundational truths in the public sphere. Our loyalty as Christians to the kingdom of Jesus over any temporal nation is paramount. Meeting faithful Christians working for God’s glory in their particular sphere of work helped me see multiple ways this took place in Chattanooga, and how I can go forward doing that in my own life.
Exposure to nonprofits showed me the large presence of poverty along with social and cultural disparities present in Chattanooga. This has shaped how I see our country and the fallenness of human nature. I also learned about the value of being winsome and practicing humility when working amongst non-believers from the a class we took on Human Rights issues around the world. I try to practice this often when building friendships with people holding different beliefs from my own.
Bible study was another special part of the program. These sessions surpassed my expectations as they helped me see the Word from different angles and perspectives. It humbled me and showed me how much I have still to learn about that book.
I depend on these takeaways when interacting with people, deciding how to spend money, deciding what my theological and political stances are, standing in nature, and remembering why I have to spend Saturday studying when I don’t feel like it. As you can see, it’s pretty often. Growing as a person is critical. Understanding and developing self and what’s around you is important. Practicing civic responsibility helps society. They are good things, but not final. At the end of the day all these were means to know the Lord better, and love who He is and all He’s done. My relationship with Him deepened and strengthened during this time, and I am most thankful for that growth. Certainly, that benefits me every day too (Psalm 103:2).
Eva Swanson, Chattanooga Fellow Alum ‘17