I’m now almost a month into BSSM – the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry – and one word keeps coming to mind when I think of how to describe this experience: refreshing.
I’ve attended a lot of schools in my life – public, private, Christian, secular, northern, southern, in-person and online. From preschool to grad school, I’ve experienced about every kind of school there is.
But Bethel has something none of them ever had, and that’s grace.
There is so much grace at BSSM. And it’s the most wonderful feeling.
BSSM promotes both freedom and responsibility. These values aren’t just preached, though; they’re lived out, and it’s evident.
I finished up my undergraduate degree at a private Christian university that I loved, recommend, and feel fortunate to have attended. But there wasn’t a whole lot of grace there. The student leadership always seemed to be on the prowl for misconduct, and I lived in constant fear of getting in trouble.
One day, I did get in trouble. Shorts weren’t allowed on campus unless they were mid-thigh or longer, and one of the chapel greeters deemed my shorts too short. They were the longest pair of shorts I owned, the longest pair of shorts I could find, and they went just past my fingertips so I thought they were fine.
I had a belt on, and I asked if I could go into the bathroom and loosen my belt so the shorts would fall lower on my waist. The leader said I could. I stretched my shorts down to what would hopefully be an acceptable length, smoothed my already-long t-shirt over them so no one could accuse me of showing any midriff, and returned to the Dress Code Gestapo. She scrutinized my outfit a moment and then said, “Nope, those still aren’t long enough. You’ll have to go change or I can’t let you into chapel.”
She wouldn’t let me into chapel – to worship Jesus – until I went back home and changed my outfit.
I’m all about modest being hottest and everything, but there was just something so wrong with this scenario. It was literally hot out – it was August in Florida – and I was just trying to stay cool. I did think the dress code was kind of stupid, but I didn’t think I was out of compliance. I wasn’t trying to make anyone lust. My heart was pure. Chapel was mandatory, so I had to be there or I’d lose credit. I sprinted back to my room across campus, yanked on a pair of jeans, and made it back a few minutes after the service had begun.
I hung my head as the leader admitted me into chapel. I felt like a criminal returning to the scene of the crime. Me, the ultimate rule-follower. Me, who’d never had a boyfriend, never broken curfew, and never uttered a single swear word. Me, who’s been called a prude. I felt so shamed and ashamed.
(For the record, they changed the dress code regulations the year after I graduated. I’m told you can pretty much wear whatever you want now, so don’t go hating on the school! 😉😊)
Every time someone in leadership would approach me at this school, I’d tense up and assume the worst. Usually my assumptions were fairly in line with what would actually happen. It usually wasn’t pleasant. Certainly not everyone in leadership behaved this way, but so many of them were so distrusting, and that made me distrusting of them. Not to mention terrified! I breathed a sigh of relief when I graduated and could wear shorts again. I remember actually hoping nobody would see pictures of me in shorts online and try to take away my diploma. 😂
So a few weeks ago, when one of the student leaders at BSSM private-messaged me during a Zoom call, I panicked for a second. Oh, crap. Did I do something wrong? I mentally rehearsed everything I’d done up to that point. Had I forgotten something? Misunderstood something?
I was blown away by the message she sent me. She complimented my pure and kind demeanor, and she told me she felt like God was going to make himself known to me in this season. “The pure in heart shall see God,” she quoted, adding a heart emoji.
I could have cried right on the spot. What a beautiful picture of redemption! The very thing that had been questioned at my previous school – my purity – was exactly what she complimented me on. I felt so loved, seen, and validated. Exactly the opposite of how I felt after my encounters with student leaders at my old school. (Well, I felt seen both times…but one left me wanting to hide and the other left me feeling valuable.)
This theme of grace is woven into the fabric of BSSM. The homework? It’s about your heart, not about writing perfect sentences in MLA format. The reading? It’s for your benefit alone. You won’t be surprised by any pop quizzes or graded on a curve. The leaders? They’re there to encourage you and build you up, not scan the student body for transgressors.
Freedom. And responsibility.
Just like, say, Jesus would do.
This is already the school with the most freedom I’ve ever attended, and it’s becoming easier and easier to understand just what’s so amazing about grace. ❤️
Grace. It’s refreshing.