I was warned well in advance, but I didn’t listen.
My father told me that he had once thought he would never be a doctor or a missionary. I laughed at his folly—he worked and preached at a rural African clinic for thirteen years—but I didn’t heed. My head was stuffed with my own resolutions: I was going to learn as much about the stars as I possibly could, and I was going to learn it all at the Lyman Briggs College of science at Michigan State University.
I decided to be an astronomer at age ten. The space section of our tiny mission library became my regular hangout (I read all 622 pages of James Michener’s Space). In seventh grade, my favorite typing exercises involved Mavis Beacon’s long essays on Einstein’s theories of relativity. In ninth grade, my efforts to track down and interview an actual professional astronomer in Grand Rapids earned me the only 100% my English teacher had ever given out for a class project. I am an astronomer now because God is gracious and I am stubborn.
It is because of the former, and in spite of the latter, that I am also a Calvin alum.
I had never heard of Calvin College. I was not aware that the Christian Reformed Church existed. I thought “hermeneutics” was the study of the end times. And I couldn’t imagine that a small Christian college could offer me anything close to the resources of Lyman Briggs.
I am stubborn, but so is God. And so was my friend Elizabeth. She and her family brought me to Calvin three times for personal visits with the physics and astronomy faculty, who—despite their near-heretical Big Bang belief system (for more on this, read “Neon Gray”)—managed to squeeze out of me the grudging confession that Calvin’s astronomy program was pretty decent. But it didn’t matter, I was still going to Michigan State.
Finally, in late September of my senior year of high school, I was forced to make a decision between the two, because a rather large scholarship needed to be told where to go. After days of scribbling weighted pros and cons on crowded whiteboards, I chose Lyman Briggs, signed my name on the form, and collapsed with a sigh of relief. The ball’s in your court, God.
A week later, I couldn’t get Calvin College out of my mind. Every nod in one direction is a head shake in another, and my relieved “yes” to Lyman Briggs was a guilty “no” to all that Calvin had to offer. And somehow, in the first week of October, I couldn’t stop thinking about all that Calvin had to offer. It only took a couple of angst-ridden days, and my hasty emails were chasing the scholarship form to see if the decision could be changed.
Fences are a lot easier to sit on than to jump over. But my perfect 180 required some jumping, and a little help from my gracious and amused God. They changed the college name on the form, signing and sealing my covenant with a Calvin education. Somewhere, halfway between the starry heavens and the depths of my heart, I can still imagine I hear chuckling.
For me, the turn of each new year always brings a time of reflection instead of resolution. I look back on where I was a year ago, and count the new blessings the past year has brought. Nine out of ten of those blessings in recent years have been the direct result of God’s guidance toward and through the Calvin College I swore I would not attend.
My heart I offered… eventually. It was returned to me, filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Melissa (Haegert) Dykhuis (’10) lives in Lafayette, Colorado, with her husband Nathan, cat Sophie, and sons Matthew and Jonathan. She graduated from Calvin with a physics degree and then got a PhD in planetary science from the University of Arizona in 2015. After years of science, she’s ready for science fiction again and is currently writing and editing young adult sci-fi novels.