No Perfect Places
Last semester, an eager previewer asked a question that caught me off guard: “What would you change about Covenant?” This earnest question from a high school senior terrified me not only because that is such a difficult question to answer authentically in front of a hundred previewers, parents and admission counselors, but also because that was the very question I pestered students with on college tours four years ago.
In that moment, I must admit that I froze and told a half-truth to the room full of prospective students. I said that I wished Covenant were closer to home (which I do) and that I missed my siblings (also true), but I avoided the real question. Over Christmas break, this question of “What would you change about Covenant?” somewhat haunted me, and caused me to do some self-reflection about myself and my time on the mountaintop these past three and a half years.
Here’s what I wish I would have said: There are no perfect places, but there are good places. Covenant is a good place, but not a perfect one, and that is okay.
I wish I would have told that high school senior what I wish someone would have told me four years earlier—that there would be nights where dinner in the Great Hall was disgusting and that there would be assignments that you didn’t understand the point of. There would be people who rubbed you the wrong way and friends who didn’t acknowledge you after freshman year. There would be a weird dating culture and this looming thing called “SIP.” There would be chapel talks that made you angry, and an abundance of insecurity, loneliness, and questioning. There would even be PSE 152 (the required health class now labelled HPE 152).
I also wish I would have said that there will be classes that would change everything. That Dr. Kapic would make you cry with his prayers to start class. That there would be countless million-dollar sunsets. That there would always be donuts on Day of Prayer. That the chapel worship team would be incredible. There would be O-shows, and Spring Formals, and Jazz on the Overlook. Screaming reunions after Thanksgiving break, and Around Founders. Legendary pranks and campus-wide pillow fights and Saturday night soccer games. Prayers said together every Sunday night. That there would be people here who care about you, who celebrate your successes with you and sit on the floor with you and cry bitter tears. That there would be deep laughter and joy.
I wish I would have told that room full of 17-year-olds that Jesus moves and works here in this place. In Hugh Smith’s short history of Covenant College, “Castle in the Clouds,” edited by Linda Smith ’66, he talks about how Covenant came to be on Lookout Mountain in 1964. Covenant just didn’t happen to get this property, to obtain Carter Hall. The college’s founders sent postcards of Carter Hall around the country asking people to pray that Covenant would acquire the property. Lookout Mountain residents met together and prayed that this property would be used for God’s glory. When Covenant put in an asking bid significantly lower than the asking price, the owners accepted the bid and sold it to them.
So, as much as I grumble and complain and have legitimate things that I would like to see changed at 14049 Scenic Highway, this place, this broken beautiful mountaintop experience, was God-ordained. Without God, Covenant wouldn’t be here. God cares deeply about Covenant and He cares deeply about our time here, as beautiful or as hard as it is. In this immensely weird and condensed semester, in a season of loss and uncertainty, I urge you dear brothers and sisters to remember the Lord’s faithfulness to this place and to His people. Covenant isn’t a perfect place, and that’s okay.
Article originally published March 14, 2021 in The Bagpipe.