Tomorrow morning Cheryl and I will leave for home. Home is a wonderful place wherever you find it. It is a place of friends and family, responsibilities and relaxation, worship and rest. We have been at home here in Wheaton. Wheaton was in fact our first home as a couple. We lived in the back half of an old house owned by the college at 722 College Avenue. The house was torn down decades ago to make room for expansion of the soccer stadium. It sat about four blocks from Karisa and Johnmark’s current basement apartment.
Our first apartment had thread bare carpet, Dutch doors, a square bathtub, and about the smallest kitchen ever built. We had a picture window from which we viewed the soccer field. The field served as a natural amplifier for the trains that roared past on the other side. On our first night there I was awakened around midnight as Cheryl crashed down on me with a full body bear hug asking, “What is that?” “A train, it’s just a train.” In her defense, it did sound like it was rumbling through our living room. Those four small rooms were a palace for us.
I loved my time at Wheaton, but the only place that felt like home was that little apartment. We had little money and even less time; we were both full-time students and we both worked. Our only recreation was riding our vintage, abandoned bicycles down the “Prairie Path” trail along the railroad tracks.
While the faculty were very warm and accepting, I never got over the feeling we were there on a trial bases. It had only been a few years prior to our arrival that Pentecostals were not welcome at the flagship of Evangelicalism without a promise to behave themselves – no charismatic expressions while a student. But Wheaton had always been more open than other conservative schools. I had looked into attending Dallas Theological Seminary and they had a strong prohibition against speaking in tongues and Asbury, my preferred seminary, required a commitment to not practice the gifts while a student. Wheaton was happy to let us know they had several Pentecostals before us.
Our church in Aurora was even less welcoming. The members of the congregation were post WWII southern transplants who were still living in the fifties. For me it was like returning to my childhood – same look, same songs, same attire. The members couldn’t understand why we were in school. Most of them had not completed high school. I taught the “Young Married” Sunday school class. My youngest members were a couple that had been married for two years. He was fourteen and she was fifteen. Their parents, both sets, had driven them to Mississippi to get married.
One of the older sisters came up to me after service one Sunday and said, “Do you want to know what the difference between you and me is young man?”
I responded, “Well, I guess you are about to tell me.”
She put her finger in my face and spoke clearly, “I depend on the Holy Ghost and you depend on your ed-gee-kay-tion.”
I chuckled and replied, “I guess that’s my problem. It’s the Holy Ghost that told me to get this education.”
She huffed, turned and walked away. I don’t believe she ever spoke to me again no matter how hard I tried.
I guess I never found my comfort zone in Wheaton thirty five years ago. It’s still not a place I would desire to live. But it is where Karisa lives and that makes it quite comfortable.
July 2, 2010