This semester I’m taking a class held in a building called Linsly-Chittenden Hall.
It stands at the south end of Yale and makes up what is known as “the old campus.”
It’s called “the old campus” because the oldest building dates back to 1750. If those long dormant history class nureons are firing in your brain, then you know this means that building, Connecticut Hall, is older than the country it stands in. Of course, so is Yale. It was founded in 1701, three-quarters of a century before there was a United States of America.
Linsly-Chittenden Hall, where I have class this semester, isn’t quite that old, but it’s no spring chicken either.
Originally beginning as two separate buildings, thus the funky name, Linsly-Chittenden dates all the way back to 1889 with final construction completed in 1907.
Now, I have to confess.
I had to look up all of those dates on the ‘ole Google.
I share them to give you some context for what I really want to talk about.
Every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon I head down the hill from the Divinity School to the old campus. The classroom where we meet in Linsly-Chittenden is on the second floor. Most days I enter through the quad and walk up the beautiful old marble staircase.
I get there early, so the staircase is usually empty. But I always make sure to walk on the right side. It’s not because I’ve got post traumatic stress disorder from being told over and over again to walk on the right side of the hall in elementary school.
I walk on the right side of the stairs because it affords me the opportunity to quite literally walk in the steps of those who have come before me.
Marble is a hard rock, but like all rocks it wears away with time.
More than a century’s worth of Yale students have worn down the steps of Linsly-Chittenden Hall and if you know where to step you can feel the path they blazed. Soft groves in the stairs, worn smooth with time that serve for me as a physical reminder of those that have come before me, who endured the challenges before them, and who went on to live great lives.
In a way, the steps at Yale are like an old Bible.
They tell a story.
Not only of the school, but of all those who passed through it.
My old Bible from high school is even more worn out than the steps in Linsley-Chittendon Hall. I carried it with me seemingly everywhere back then and now it’s quite literally falling apart at the seems.
But when I go back and flip through its pages, I’m not just reading the story of faith.
I’m reading my story.
That old BIble is filled with old scribbles, notes, stickers, bulletins, and handouts that remind me of countless great memories from church camp, youth group, and countless youth retreats and mission trips.
Those memories, like the steps at Yale, remind me that I’m not alone.
They remind me that my faith is not my own.
That it was handed down to be through countless generations of believers I’ve never met who struggled with the same things I struggle with, who had the same doubts that I have, and who saw God work in their lives in ways that I’m only beginning to get a glimpse of now.
In the midst of a world consumed by individualism, it’s important to remember that as Christians we’re part of a Body, not a private faith.
The beauty of that Body is not found in its perfection, but in its willingness to admit its faults, struggles, doubts, and fear and then confront them head-on with faith, hope, love, and community.
When we hold our Bibles in our hands, sit in the pews at our local church, or volunteer to serve our community we walk in the well worn steps of the countless Christians who have come before us, who endured the challenges that came their way, and survived to go on and change the world.
We’re in this thing together. We grow together. We learn together. We fail together. We succeed together.
We carry each others’ burdens, meet each others’ need, celebrate each others’ victories, and change the world….together.
Which means the Christian faith is not our own.
Like an old family Bible, it has been entrusted to us for a time and then we must pass it on others.
So, the question is what will our legacy of faith be?
Will future generations go out of their way to walk in our well worn steps?
Or will our story be so insignificant and uninspiring that it becomes lost in the pages of history?
No matter what we say in response to that question now, like the stairs in Linsly-Chittenden Hall, only time will tell the true story of our faith.
Grace and peace,