May 22, 2019

Humans of Gordon: Two Sophomores Share Their Stories

by Taylor Bradford ('19, Columnist)

Samuel Paquette

Who is Samuel Paquette? While it would be easy to respond in classic Westminster fashion—”a child of God” whose chief end is “to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever”—the actual answer is a bit more complex. Ultimately, Samuel claims he would be nothing but “trillions of trillions of molecules constantly being rearranged into different forms until the eventual Heat Death of the universe” without God. If it weren’t for the return of Christ, who would be left to care about us? Samuel can see with complete clarity how fatalistic the world would be without the presence and influence of God. From Samuel’s point of view, who he is at a fundamental level must be linked to God because nothing else really seems to matter in the end.

Samuel grew up in a Christian home and was saved at an early age. He recalls being five years old when he accepted Christ. It happened on a Wednesday night when he felt an incredible degree of worry about the eternal condition of his soul. So, he prayed and from that prayer a relatively beautiful faith life bloomed. At the start, Samuel referred to himself as one of those people with a “boring testimony.” However, he also noted how disrespectful it is to call a testimony boring, due to the nature of a testimony itself. Testimonies are meant to be a story about Jesus Christ and He has “the least boring, true story ever told.” Samuel later elaborated by describing how “religion is isn’t meant to be an individualistic endeavor, so it isn’t necessarily important to talk about how your faith is different from someone else’s faith.”

He then provided two images to communicate how his faith functions. One was centered around the latin word religare, which means to bind. Samuel then leaped into the tale of Odysseus being tied the mast of his ship to keep him from the pull of the siren’s song—he noted how incredibly liberal arts of him this was to bring up. He wants to be bound to God like Odysseus was bound to the mast to keep him from temptation, so he doesn’t go leaping off the side of the ship every time he hears its beckoning call. However, this image must be expanded when applied to God: “I am tied to God with something, but He is also holding me in his hand.” Everyone struggles with certain temptations, Samuel believes taking proper action will lead one’s mind in the same direction. If you act a certain way, your mind will follow. Like Paul states in 1 Corinthians 9:27, one must discipline their body to keep it under control.

We live in a hyper consumerist and individualistic society. Samuel can spot it in every commercial and Disney movie. There is this constant idea that everyone has such a bright future in store for them. Everyone is obsessed with trying to carve out their own paths. Commercials often sell products by convincing their audience members they will become more themselves with a new beauty product or clothing item. To Samuel, self-actualization is not the ultimate end. In Samuel’s words, “I don’t think we should give the things we choose about ourselves precedence over those things that we do not choose as being more intrinsically part of us.”

Samuel is a math major with a history minor. He is interested in the highly theoretical aspects of math and the military/ political side of history. There isn’t very much intersection between his majors for him because he isn’t at all interested in the historical side of math. He isn’t quite sure where his majors will take him. There is an old Japanese concept called “ikgai”. It encompasses four main concepts: passion, mission, vocation, and profession. Samuel describes them as what you love, what the world needs, that for which you can be paid, and what you’re good at doing. He thinks achieving all four of these in his career seems somewhat improbable. There are some things he is good at that simply bore him to death.

Samuel recognizes there are some things he will have to give up in life. Greed doesn’t seem to be one of his vices. He doesn’t like buying things and he doesn’t like having money. However, he wants a family in the future and, someone will have to provide for them. So, getting two or three of the ikigai aspects means sacrificing one of the others.

People who know Samuel know he holds strong opinions and is not afraid to debate controversial topics. After having a good conversation with Samuel Paquette you will find there is a lot more to him than his jaw-dropping debate skill. Samuel loves God. He wants a family. He thinks really deep thoughts. He is a math major and history minor, with no intersection whatsoever. He is this crazy wonderful mixed up person and he is certainly a heck of a lot more than a bunch of molecules drifting through space. Next time you see him, take a seat and listen. I bet you’ll learn quite a bit more than you intended. You’ll leave with some thought provoking insights and one of those lasting smiles that quietly quirks the corner of your lip after a meaningful conversation.

Michael Mitts

Michael Mitts is a real person. He is honest and genuine. He often tries to wear who he is on his sleeve as a way to protect himself from becoming someone who he doesn’t like. Michael doesn’t actually love the stigma associated with him on campus. He arrived to Gordon with a spotlight on him, due to the influence and impact of his older sister. While he appreciates the kindness and love people have shown him as a result of it, he would also be happy not to have as much of the attention he gets. His ultimate goal is to use whatever influence he has to be as real with people as he can.

He wants to hear what people have to say and he wants to hear what he needs to be working on. Michael sees the value of vulnerability and transparency in friendships. In his words, “the beautiful process of healing happens when you speak about the things of which you are actually ashamed.” Michael pointed out all the people in the Bible Jesus chose to build up. They were murderers and scam artists, not people with these perfect Christian reputations. Take Paul for example, he wouldn’t fit in any of our current Christian bubbles. Michael described Paul as this awesome dude with no safety plan for being a Christian. Paul just went off “like Indiana Jones on all these Christian adventures and those are stories of which the Bible is full. I think that is fantastic.”

Michael sees how many people live with an intense fear of rejection, which plays into this constant need to pretend. He believes in living vulnerably, and gently, and honestly. “Jesus takes us where we are and we should take each other where we are too.” Michael’s biggest heart for people is that they know who they are is who Jesus will take. Especially in Christian circles, Michael has sensed an unwillingness in people to accept their fellow sinners.

           He certainly doesn’t advise going around proclaiming all of yourself to the entire world. That would just be way too much. But, “being able to vocalize real struggles saturated with substantial shame is important. It shouldn’t always be something you constantly go ‘ahhh!’ about.” Michael’s point is that vulnerability has to happen with close friends and mentors. The key message is that shameful things must be brought into the light and we should seek to do so together as siblings in Christ.

           At the end of the day, Michael Mitts is a legitimate person. He isn’t perfect. In his words, he is “a mess… a lot.” So, who is Michael Mitts? Well, he wants to be a storyteller. Someone who tells everyone else’s stories, the ones that need to be heard. At the end of the day, “there is power in stories. They help people feel less alone in the world and can lead them to seek true goodness.” According to Michael, a real story can only be heard over a longer period of time because “the nuance of it has to be captured in order for it to be beautiful.” As of right now, he is also a granola goon with holes in his pants who wants to fly a unicorn in space.

           I say we take his advice and give him the room to be his authentic self. I also vote we extend an arm of genuine care to one another. We listen and allow ourselves to communicate the shameful parts of our lives to those who can be trusted to hold all the jagged edges.

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