It’s tradition: when a GRIT editorial board member graduates from Biola, we ask her to share some of her hard-won wisdom with us, gained from a season of learning, loving and leaning on God and their communities in this place. Today we hear from Sarah Schwartz, one of our founding members, who this December graduates with a Master’s in Theology from Talbot. Grab a tissue and prepare your soul for a deep dive into the fire and balm of her encouraging words.

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One of my favorite poems talks about acknowledging the work of mothers who did not raise you, but loved you by clearing the path you would one day walk. Any last word of mine must begin with the great debt I owe the individuals who did this for me—the band of fierce and fearless women who made my time at Biola possible.

Anything of value I have to share with you here can likely be traced back to one of them— Dorothy, Arianna, or Marcy, Lisa, Laura, Melanie or Joy, Steph, Christa, Carrie, or Carolyn, Claudia or Alicia or LaDawn. I am a product of their wisdom, work, and don’t you dare give up kind of love.

I hope your season here is marked by these kinds of voices, and that some day, before you head off to your next adventure, you pass along your own wisdom to the generation of Biola women who follow you.

For what it’s worth, here is mine.

First—don’t be afraid to take up space. Don’t shave off pieces of yourself, just so someone else won’t be made uncomfortable by how funny or intelligent or ambitious you are. Be humble, yes, but do not mistake humility for playing small, or denying the world the fullness of who you were created to be. To do so would be a great disservice to the image of God seared across your soul. Don’t be in relationship with anyone—a boyfriend, a boss, or a best friend—who needs you to shrink in order to feel important.

Fight for your friends. Love them fiercely. Show up when it’s easy, and when it’s not.

Don’t be afraid to wrestle with the Lord or ask hard questions of this faith we carry. He’ll meet you in the messy places, in the tension and mystery of this Word made flesh. I promise that your questions don’t scare him the way they scare you. In the words of Brennan Manning, you can be confident that the love of God is always tender towards you, particularly in seasons of doubt.

Never trim your own bangs.

Too many of you are limiting your future careers or ministries because of a hypothetical future husband and kids. Don’t. Yes, one day, you might have to make choices where those relationships and responsibilities are a factor. But for the vast majority of you, today is not that day. Do not limit where the Lord might have you go or things he may have you do based on circumstances that don’t exist yet.

When things go right, when prayers are answered or provision offered, build an altar. Return to it often.

Reject any ideas of “purity” that measure your worth on the scales of what you have or have not done physically. You are holy and whole because of the work of the cross. Period.

Be kinder to yourself.

I have been single for the majority of my time at Biola, both as an undergraduate & a graduate student, and you know what? IT WAS AWESOME. Don’t be afraid to be single; don’t be afraid to love it.

See a therapist.

You do not need to know what you are doing after graduation. Be proactive, look for jobs, apply to graduate programs, but know that it’s okay to not have it all figured out. (I am 26, and still just doing my best to impersonate a grown up.)

Don’t spend so much time worrying about the future or dwelling on the past that you miss out on the present. It will be tempting, especially post-grad, to wait for your “real life” to start. But this flawed and magnificent right now moment? It is your real life. Be here.

You’ll have your own hard won lessons to add to this list, wisdom some young woman in your life will need like oxygen. Before you bid farewell to this place, don’t forget to buy her a cup of coffee, and tell her, in the words of Chinkaka Hodge,

"Tell her the truth, how you lived in spite of crooked odds. Tell her you were brave, and always, always in the company of courage, mostly the days when you just had yourself. Tell her she was born as you were, as your mothers before, and the sisters beside them, in the age of legends, like always. Tell her she was born just in time, just in time to lead."

all of my love forever,