When I first came to Ridley, where I study the Bible and theology, I was mostly a coffee drinker. If I drank tea, it was black tea with sugar and milk, and usually only if I had a bickie to enjoy with it. But as I have journied through my studies and connected with other students over morning teas, lunches, study sessions, prayer meetings, dinners, and just time talking in fellowship, my tea habits have slowly started to mirror those of the people I have come to love as my brothers and sisters.
At first, I had invited a friend to my apartment to catch up, and I learned which teas she most prefers. I didn’t have them at the time, but while shopping I made sure to grab some to have on my shelf for when she next came over. Another time I was at another friend’s house to pray, and was offered Rooibos, which I had never had before. I found a liking for it, and it’s taken its (very valued) place on the shelf. Another conversation here, a moment shared there, and soon enough I had a kitchen shelf dedicated to tea, crammed full of all different sorts and flavours.
Now, whenever I scan my tea shelf to decide what beverage I might indulge in for the moment, I am reminded of those people I have shared these years with, and the memories created with them.
But that’s not all I remember.
My vibrant tea shelf serves as a reminder to me of all the other things that I have picked up in my time here at seminary, connecting with students and faculty past and present. I suppose it is a visual representation of the spiritual shelf that has collected its own items as I have prayed, studied, struggled, changed, and grown with the people I have shared these walls with; as I have learned from them, and as Christ has used them to develop me more and more into the woman that He has called me to be.
When I remember who I once was, and look at who I am now, I cannot help but feel proud. Not an arrogant kind of proud, but the humble pride and gratitude of knowing that I have grown in all different areas of life because of the people who have surrounded me. I see reflections of my teachers and my peers in how I think about and approach certain ideas and situations. I see the lessons I have studied in how I relate to God and His world around me. I see the marks of all the chapel services we have sat in and lead together. I see the flavours of all the healthy debates we have entered, and of the unity and love we have kept despite disagreements. Compared to the unhospitable, relatively bare shelf that I came here with, I now see one that is much like my tea shelf: crammed full of spiritual lessons, knowledge, skills, and fellowship… though with still much room left for more items which no doubt will find their place as I continue to grow in Christ with His church.
I am still a coffee person. Only now, I am also a tea person. The person I was before I came to Ridley has not been dismissed to be replaced by something else. Rather, she has grown to be more rounded and appreciative of the people, styles, and doctrines in worship that were once foreign and confronting; she has grown in her understanding and love of God and the people He loves.
When I reflect on these shelves that have been filled, I cannot help but stand in awe of how God grows and shapes us through others, and I cannot help but praise Him for it.