On being an intentional Christian in Cambridge

I arrived in Cambridge with a fair amount of anticipation. My journey to university was fraught, beset by administrative mistakes and unexpected diversions. I'd missed deadlines, not been able to attend interviews, and found myself pooled in the unlikeliest of ways. With each mistake I'd made, another opportunity arose. The fellows at Wolfson were kind enough to grant me an interview over Skype and fortuitously, happened to specialise in the topics of my submitted writing samples. Looking back, I have come to recognise a divine imprint in the way that the path to Cambridge was paved for me, a circumstantial push I attribute to God. This awareness of a divine presence framed the way I regarded my first couple of weeks in university. The initial bevy of changes felt overwhelming– new communities, new activities, and new areas of learning to enjoy. Yet, I found myself beset by a concomitant eagerness to embrace all that was before me. I threw myself into auditions, applications to write for Varsity, and finding a church, hoping that the dreams I'd held would come to pass. The rejections came in a steady stream as I didn't get cast in any freshers' plays, my pitch for a column was turned down, and I was struck by a sudden feeling of alienation as an international student reading English. Beyond all of that, the realisation that I had not been particularly thoughtful in finding a church community, brought me back to God's feet. I'd believed that the same divine leading that had brought me to Cambridge would factor in the desires I held in my heart. Rather, my eagerness to wrest control, my unwillingness to draw my will in accordance with that of God's through prayer, quickly became an impediment to rest, stability, and peace. Having served in my home church's youth ministry for many years, I had to learn again what it was to receive before I could give as readily as I wanted to. By the grace of God, I leaned into Christian community in the Cambridge Chinese Christian Fellowship, CICCU Englings, and Cambridge University Gospel Choir. In Lent of my first year, I decided to start attending a different church, one where I felt I could contribute to the community and learn from its leaders. I needed the time to grow accustomed to the university's pace of work and social demands. I needed to learn to love the people God had placed around me.

All throughout, I felt the slow work of God begin to yield fruit as I learned to see Cambridge as He wanted me to see it: as a place of great intellectual rigour and robust Christian community, but also as one beset by income inequality, unsustainable work patterns, institutionalised racism, and irreligious spiritual yearnings. It was only in seeing Cambridge for what it was that I began to better understand God's will for me within it. By prayer, petition, and time spent with Him, I strived to keep in step with Him each day. He led me to invest in spiritual friendships in church and in my Christian Fellowship cell group. He opened the doors to participate in discussions that strove to reconcile faith with literature, decoloniality, activism, and social justice. By the gentle rebuke of friends and teachers, He taught me what it is to rest in Him and to depend completely on Him. Looking back, it was in the deepening of the time spent with the person of Jesus Christ that breathed life into each day I have spent in university. I have lived in anticipation of His will each morning and sought Him in every book I've read, every conversation I've shared, and every word I've written. Amidst the tumult of transition, as you find continue to find your bearings, I can only hope to extend an invitation to meet with Jesus and allow Him to animate the days that await in this odd little town.

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