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This first one was not actually a paper. This was an application essay for the Frederick Supper Honors Program at PBA that I submitted in January 2015 in my senior year of high school. I was accepted and almost completed the whole program but ended up dropping out of it in my final semester for scheduling/financial reasons. I’ve included the prompt in bold.
Write a letter to your future self – the person you think you will be when you graduate from college. What do you want that person to have learned? How should that person have benefited from college? What advice do you have for that person? (1-2 pages in length)
Dear Tim 2019,
Congratulations on completing your four years at Palm Beach Atlantic University! What an honor it is here in the year 2015 to be the former self of a PBA graduate! I hope you enjoyed your time there and are more thoroughly equipped now to live a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair (Prov. 1:3)!
Oh, I’m sorry! I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Tim Fowler, and I am you from four years ago. I am Tim 2015! Yes, indeed, it is possible to send a letter directly into the future. Your brother from the physics department at UNC Chapel Hill found a way to do this. I’m still thinking through the theological consequences of time travel, but at any rate if you are reading this, it is definitely possible.
Well, now that we have been properly introduced, Tim 2019, let me ask you this: have you kept up with your Bible memorization? If so you should have memorized all of the New Testament by now. If that pursuit hasn’t transformed your life, then all this time you have been merely multiplying the facts of your mind but have not been growing in the knowledge and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18). You have regarded the Word but have not lived by the Spirit; you have diligently studied the Scriptures but have not come to Jesus for the abundant life that is in him (John 5:39-40; 10:10). Of course, you do already have life, having been bought with a price and baptized by one Spirit into the one body of Christ (1 Cor. 6:20, 12:13), yet even so you must continue to live by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16), work out your salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12), run with perseverance the race marked out for you (Heb. 12:1), etc.—not in order to earn favor or grace from God, since grace has already been given to you through Jesus Christ, but out of a genuine faith and love for the Word of God. So, I ask you this, Tim 2019, have you continued to study and memorize the Scriptures and have you also grown by that pursuit?
Your education and academic success are important, and these past four years you should have worked with all your might in your classes, working heartily as for the Lord and joyfully to the glory of God (Ecclesiastes 9:10; Col. 3:23; 1 Thes. 5:16; 1 Cor. 10:31). Nevertheless, the words of human wisdom compare feebly to the Word of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of man (1 Cor. 1:19, 25). Knowledge may puff up and impress, but the glory of man will wither while the word of the Lord stands firm in the heavens forever (1 Pet. 1:24; cf. Isa. 40:6-8; Ps. 119:89). In light of this, I admonish you that the university-caliber knowledge, skills, and glory you have gleaned at PBA are meaningless unless applied according to the Scriptures. It is in obedient knowledge of God’s word that true wisdom may be found. “Your commands make me wiser than my enemies… I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts” (Ps. 119:98-100).
By now, if your plans have not changed and the Lord has given your plans success, you are now a capable filmmaker, a published author, and a proficient musician and music composer with a good job that you enjoy. By now, you have a good deal of life experience behind you. You have good friends with whom you fellowship deeply, and you yourself have become a better friend who is godly and encouraging, who loves at all times (Pr. 17:17), who sticks closer than a brother (Pr. 18:24), who gives earnest counsel and faithful wounds (Pr. 27:6, 9), stirring others up to love and good works (Heb. 10:24).
Yet all these things, even human friendship, are meaningless apart from Christ! You may as well have not pursued these things unless for you to live is Christ and to die is gain (Phil. 1:21). Be grateful if the Lord has blessed you with success in these plans, but be grateful still and rejoice if he has withheld these things from you, for he is good and what he does is good (Pr. 16:19; Ps. 119:68).
Be thankful even if these have been years of trial and difficulty. Though he slay you, yet you will hope in him, for it is in faithfulness that he afflicts you. It is those he loves whom he disciplines (Job 13:15; Ps. 119:75; Prov. 3:12). “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD” (Ps. 27:14). “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven,” (Matthew 5:12); the Lord himself is your very great reward (Gen. 15:1), so fix your eyes on the Lord Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith, “who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). Even in your affliction, rejoice that this is not your home, but that you are a citizen of heaven where you shall live eternally (John 17:36; Phil. 3:20; Heb. 13:14). Rejoice greatly that even now in this fallen flesh and groaning creation you have the Spirit of God within you to guide you, lead you, counsel you, and speak to you what he hears and give you strength to do all things (John 16:7, 13; 1 Cor. 4:16; Gal. 5:18; Phil. 4:13).
With all this in mind, Tim 2019, I pray that the Lord will bless you by these four years you have spent at PBA. I pray that the knowledge, skills, and experiences you have gained at college have opened new avenues by which you may glorify and enjoy God. Whether you have endured or have been thankfully spared great hardship, I pray that you will have grown more closely to the Lord so that you reflect his character more completely now.
With all that said, Tim 2019, I bid you farewell until we meet again, four years hence!
Grace and peace to you,
Tim Fowler 2015
In Retrospect: I haven’t looked at this essay in years and honestly forgot that I had written it. My initial impressions are that I am surprised at how my mind was thinking back then. There is so much I’ve learned over the past year about sanctification, fellowship, suffering, and humility before a sovereign God, among other things, and I feel as if I have been learning all this for the first time. And yet here I am—Tim 2015, eighteen-year-old Tim—articulating all these same things four and a half years ago!
Does this mean I did not not really understand what I was saying back then? I don’t think so. My understanding has deepened since then, of course, but I think it is more the case that in the difficulty of these years, I have allowed my heart to drift either in understanding or application and to forget much of what I learned in high school through the ministry of faithful shepherds like my dad and other pastors. The Lord has been merciful enough to stir me up by way of reminder in the last year, and he has done this in such a way that it is as if I am learning all these things for the first time again. So I am grateful for the renewal of my mind.
The paragraph on suffering is intriguing because I don’t know what I was expecting when I wrote that. What did I think was going to happen? I wish I could remember. I have certainly had my share of deep affliction over these years, some of which I brought on myself, and I have also been spared much suffering. I have not always responded to affliction in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. I have had to repent of sinful responses to grief and frustration. But more recently I think the Lord has worked in me the joy, contentment, and godly grief in times of adversity that Tim 2015 wanted to develop. Thank God for that!
As for the Bible memory goals, if anyone is wondering, I did memorize a lot of Scripture over the past four years but not anywhere near as much as the whole New Testament. In hindsight, I actually don’t think that was an overly ambitious goal; I think it was actually attainable. It just required a tremendous amount of discipline and commitment that for one reason or another I did not sustain. Of course memorizing the Bible should never be a mere numbers game: It should proceed from a love for the Lord and result in growth in Christ. The number of verses I memorized may have been fewer than I had planned, but the discipline has been fruitful and that is what matters.
Philippians 4:20, “To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Check back next week for another Favorite Undergrad Paper! I haven’t decided which one I will share next, but I think it might be my paper on “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” by Leo Tolstoy, entitled “Ivan Ilyich, the Loving Stoic.”