Dear Wheaton College,

Hi Fellow Wheaties, class of ’88,

wheaton-college-signI got my 30 year college reunion magnet along with a written invitation in the mail recently, thank you very much! I slapped that beautiful magnet covered with a fall array of colors right up on my fridge, almost without even thinking about it.  Every time I get something from Wheaton College, my alma mater, aka, you guys….I get a bit of a low level angst and irritability, peppered with stabs of conscience. While I have been brushing these feelings aside over the years, and the weight of judgement and failure that can come with, I cannot seem to keep it under wraps one more minute. I hardly feel a Wheatie! More, a “fallen” or better yet, “falling” Wheatie. Your religious mission, “For Christ and his Kingdom” has been a life long thorn in my side.

I graduated from the good ole, blue and orange, described as the “ Harvard of evangelical schools”, having had a truly wonderful, life changing but also extremely limited and narrow college experience, I was bound and determined to stay on that high and narrow path of evangelical Christianity.  Hell, I even got married while I was there.  I tried and tried to follow the rules, as set out for me biblically, until I didn’t.  Until I fell.  Into divorce, twice, into the lovely charms of alcohol, and other forms of addiction, and well, all sorts of other segways off the beaten path, which have made this lifetime at times equal parts challenging beyond belief, but as well, delicious and worthwhile, in the wisdom gained from many falls and many awakenings. 

I so dearly want to join the bitter and disheartened bunch of us that couldn’t stay on that narrow tightrope. We who have fallen or are falling, who strayed from your course, at times resort to bitter backhanded discourse about how ridiculous you Wheaties are and how glad we are that “we” have evolved as humans to understand that there is more to faith then these continual reprisals of fear based reactionary events.  But. I can’t. Because what I’ve learned in my falling down life, is there is no “us” and “them”, there is no difference between us at all, despite our past clutching to the cause, Christian, non Christian, Buddhist, Hindi, really any set of religious beliefs. There is just clinging to belief and then there is faith.  Faith in the unknown, in uncertainty, in the willingness to admit we just don’t know for sure and that is A O.K.  Faith in the power of love, I pray, daily, minute by minute some days.

The college needs to know that the rest of us that don’t show up at the reunions and who may on occasion, slam Wheaton on social media, or elsewhere, and have somehow “fallen” into a life of which our dear old Wheaton establishment, would highly disapprove, are still alive!!  We’re still getting the refrigerator magnets, and letters and such, that we often resent.  We have much to offer!

As Jesus met the woman at the well, so must you, dear ole’ Wheaton, find a place for we “falling” Wheaties, who may in some way, embrace the path of Christianity, but do not see it as exclusive, but inclusive of a greater whole.  We who have accepted heaven in the here and now,  born again in each moment of choosing love over fear as the portal to a life with abundance now and ever after.  We who are falling and don’t care to get up.  It is your mission to find a place for us too, not because we need to come back, but because you need to come back and make room in your hearts as equals, sharers in the keys to the kingdom.  We are here too. Humans. 

I hope the reunion goes smoothly.  In love and faith,

Jill Woodworth, B.S. 1988

About Jill M. Woodworth

Mother of 5. Reigning in the chaos of life with my self expressive blogs. Passionate about a new idea every day. Trying find an adequate platform. Embracing life on a day to day basis and raising my children, 3 with TSC. I am an avid runner, and use running and meditation daily to cope with life. Right now, I am helping tsalliance.org recruit Marine Corp Marathon runners for Team TSC. Go Team! Find a cure!
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5 Responses to Dear Wheaton College,

  1. Ned Spiecker says:

    Hi Jill. Thanks so much for sharing part of your story. Good stuff that needs to be heard. I also read one of your old blogs about IS and TSC. My brother has a 4 year old with TSC so it hit home for me. Thanks for sharing about the miraculous grace you’ve experienced in such difficulty. You bring hope to people.

    I don’t know if I’ll be able to make it to the 30th (actually aside from the first cluster reunion a few months after we graduated I’ve only been to one other reunion), but if I can and if you would come I’d love to sit down and have a coffee!

    Warmly,

    Ned Spiecker

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ned, Wow, thanks for reading and commenting! I’m touched to hear from you, remembering your speedy treks from the Billy Graham ctr after history class up to save Beth and I places in line at Saga. So kind! Please let your brother know if there’s any info or help I can give related to TSC, I’m here. I’m going to world TSC conference in July, and that’ll be my big trip out of MA but if in Wheaton in near future, will check in. Prayers and blessings to you and yours.

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  2. Cecily Whiteside says:

    I too am a falling Wheatie. I broke the pledge while there, spent more than one semester on acedmic probation, have had an up and down relationship with the school, and question much of what evangelicals stand for. And yet I look back on those days and am thankful. No institution, like no person, is perfect. We offer grace while we form our own opinions. Now my daughter is graduating from Wheaton. Whenever I have gone to visit I am reminded that this is a good place filled with good people, some of whom I disagree with. I can still love them and be proud of my connection to them in spite of – or perhaps because of – our differences. I went to my 30 year reunion last year. Mostly because of my two kids going there and the swim team having a huge retirement party for coach. I reconnected with friends from my days there and found that we all had mellowed. It reminds me of a post I wrote on medium.com. Ecclesiastes is for Forty Year Olds. At twenty we see things in black and white. At forty? hopefully by then we are a little more graceful toward everyone.

    It’s not a bad idea to go to the reunion. If only to put the past to rest. Book a hotel with your bestie from back then. Or heck, I’ll go with you! We can wander campus and you can tell me stories and then we can sit under a tree and find common ground. Because as falling Wheaties we probably have a lot of similarities.

    Cecily Liversidge BA ‘87

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    • Thanks for the response. and thanks for the suggestions about how to reconnect with the ones that matter from those days. Unfortunately for me, there are some lost connections that I hope to reconnect with in some way in due time, particularly my college bestie. Helping my kids get on their own paths to some measure of independence, considering their considerable special needs, has taken so much of my energy these past years, that I have let go of most all connections I have with every relevant support system with which I’ve been involved, including the 12 step program. It is not however, because I am “relapsing” or out of any sort of recovery but merely b/c the day to day care of the kids and recovery from the trauma we all experienced (and probably so many of us) as a broken family trying to cope with a diagnoses of TSC and having no tools, toolbox, falling like you wouldn’t believe, and now coming out the other side of it all. The blog I wrote was the premise for a book idea I have for a book called “Falling Wheatie”, based on a meandering path, from Wheaton until current. So, yes, I like all your suggestions and I do hope to get back there some day but right now, I’m just going a day at a time and treasuring the moments with my amazing partner and the kids and I just got my oldest into a shared living situation so have a second to write a bit and volunteer a bit with the TS Alliance and try to find lucrative work as well. Sheesh. I really hope your weekend at Wheaton (this one, I think) and graduation is wonderful and you find the meaning of the moments and connections which is really what it’s all about anyway, having come around, like you said, “Ecclesiastes is for Forty Year Olds” and I’ll get to reading your stuff. In love and faith’…Jill

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  3. Pingback: TeamTSC & The Marine Corp Marathon | True grit motherhood.

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