When we are recruiting faculty to teach at George Fox University, I love to give them my marketing spiel: about how special this university and the community of Newberg is to me; about how I dreamed, as a student, about coming back to teach at George Fox; and about how I can’t imagine working or living anywhere else.
My hard-sell approach hasn’t always been successful; we’ve had candidates say no to an offer to teach here, which is their loss, for sure. But my marketing spiel is definitely sincere. My love for George Fox and for Newberg is so deep that one of two recurring dreams I have is that I am forced to move back to the Midwest and leave my job, my friends, and my family behind. I usually wake up from such dreams feeling unbelievably sad.
A few weeks ago, I had a once-in-a-career chance to share my research with the communities I love in a Faculty Lecture I was required to give as a recipient of last year’s GFU Undergraduate Scholar of the Year award. Doing this lecture filled me with fear: in part because my research critiques the very culture I teach in; in part because my research partner, Kendra, wouldn’t be around to help me with the Bible questions I might receive; in part because I was speaking not only to my professional community, but also to friends and family who don’t usually see me in this context. (My mom and dad–pictured above with me–were in the audience, for goodness sake!)
I did what I could to combat my fear and trembling: I had my personal stylist and all-around amazing friend help me pick out a kick-ass outfit and give me pep talks. I practiced talking to myself. I invited another friend—someone who knows the Bible and our evangelical culture well—to serve as my respondent. And I asked my kids to come watch, probably because I knew they would diffuse any overconfidence I might have. (That strategy worked: I could see them in the back, eating cookies and jabbing each other with elbows.)
And then, when the lecture was over, I felt an enormous sense of gratitude for this community and for their support: for my students, willing to add one more lecture to their over-packed schedule; for my colleagues, who have nurtured and supported me and helped me become the seasoned scholar I try to be; for my friends from the community, who allow me to be someone other than a professor most of the time; and for my family, who have helped me become all God means for me to be.
I’m grateful, too, for others who live far away from Newberg and have asked to hear my lecture. These folks represent people from other stages of my life, many who have helped me become all God means for me to be—and who continue to encourage me, from afar.
Everyone should feel so loved and supported. I am exceedingly grateful.