Geneva Core Values: Pursue Godly Wisdom - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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December 7, 2018

Geneva Core Values: Pursue Godly Wisdom

Steubenville Pike winds, Pittsburgh style, from an intersection with I-79 down to Chartiers Creek and across the Thornburg Bridge. Take a right after the bridge, follow the backbone road up along the ridge, and my place isn’t far.

Unless you’re walking.

Yesterday I trekked the ridge while pushing a stroller, convinced it was a shortcut on my way home from the community garden. Cars zipped by while I strained up an incline so steep, my son’s belly slid down to his heels, knees pointed out. He squinted up at the sky and started to howl.

I feel you, kid.

This spring is four years since I graduated from Geneva and said goodbye to Dr. Shirley (Langford ’74) Kilpatrick, “Dr. K” to her students. One of my first classes with her was on the ancient British poem Beowulf. She began by crying “Hwaet!”—Old English for “listen up!” Everyone in the room immediately straightened their spines. Her grading made us sit up, too. To be honest, Dr. K inspired a bit of fear. But it was more awe than fright.

As another professor once put it to me, Dr. K strenuously preserved the life of the mind. And that energetic life does not end in her mind—she put flesh and bone onto ideas, and a beautiful body it made. She handled things reverently, noticing God in the works we read, the prayer requests we offered, the papers we turned in. Often, her classes began with a liturgy that linked the conversation to come with worship. Once, when finals were imminent, she brought Milano cookies into class and served us, one by one.

Class by class, my wonder grew. When I served as her teaching assistant, I was floored by the time and thought she put into each class, whether thanked or not. Her way was slow; she never appeared to hurry. Carefully, she was tending and training, giving her life to prod ours to grow. She nurtured, not with disdain, but delight. (What made her students worthy of that!)

Few fresh graduates are known for their wisdom, me included. Nor is wisdom often praised. Far more common is a call to action, a call to criticize, deconstruct, or at least be outraged. As family, government and church are shown to indeed be weak things, outrage is confused with virtue. We are accepted in culture’s sight for the measure of our scythe, not the breadth of our understanding. Like babies, we howl and fuss at every bump along the way.

Yet wisdom calls in the marketplace and cries aloud in the streets today, as she has always done.

I garden at a community plot in the local park right along Steubenville Pike. Together, we work and watch: Arugula, with its horseradish bite. Peppers and tomatoes in late harvest. Ground cherries, nestling low in their paper shells. Nasturtium, with bright edible blossoms and explosive peppery seedpods. Asparagus like dinosaur tails reaching straight up through the earth.

Who can I feed with outrage? What can I build with anger? What good does it do my son if I expose institutional error and abandon the institution, only to find the same error in my own heart?

Such a pursuit is vain. Being outraged over evil is a waste of time if it results in a fear or a dismissal of mankind. Evil, after all, has been our constant companion these few millennia. It should have few surprises left. But the good? That is infinite and infinitely new. That is worth one’s wonder and cultivation.

By noticing God in the details, reverencing His handiwork and fearing His name, Dr. K led a pursuit of godly wisdom. I’m now trying to listen up.

I work from home as managing editor of New Horizons magazine, laptop perched on my kitchen table amid Cheerios and coffee mugs, endeavoring to capture glimpses of the goodness of God in written form before toting my son to play dates and then sneaking in a batch of granola before bed.

Perhaps, like age, wisdom doesn’t come faster for the pursuing but for the enjoying. Taste and see that the Lord is good, as the psalmist says. I am bold to say that Dr. K never chased wisdom, as one chases something out of one’s grasp. Yet it settled on her nevertheless, a mantle to warm her shoulders. I wish for the same.

-Judith M. (Campbell ’14) Dinsmore lives and works in Pittsburgh, PA, with her husband, Nathan ‘13, and eight-month-old son, Jack.


This post is part of a series highlighting Geneva College’s Core Values and the people in the Geneva community who bring them to life. It was originally published in the Spring 2018 edition of Geneva Magazine.