Hilltops, Decisions, and Hope

A week and a half ago I hiked up the hill that overlooks my school (and much more). It’s amazing how small everything looks from up that high. Azusa’s Pacific’s campus looked no larger than a place for my old Polly Pockets to play, the trees I crane my neck to look up at were reduced to little green dots, and cars looked like ants crawling along the streets.

Standing on the top of that foothill made me realize how small I really am. Some people experience their own puny existence when staring at the vastness of an ocean, others when looking up at a black sky dotted with sparkly stars, and others still while looking out of an airplane window. For me, it was standing on that hilltop. 

Standing on that hilltop not only reminded me of the littleness of my life, but it reminded me of 20/20 hindsight. On the top of a mountain, we realize how small we are, and looking back on our past helps up make sense of difficult decisions, failures, and closed doors. I’m hoping to stand on the mountain of 20/20 hindsight by the end of next semester.

You see, I had to make a hard decision a few weeks ago. A decision that I was afraid to tell other people about because I was afraid of their possible judgments. A decision I still feel a bit uneasy writing about because of more possible judgment.

My decision was to stay in California next semester instead of going abroad to Oxford, England. It doesn’t sound very scandalous until I tell you the reason I’m staying is because the program I was planning on going with required all participants to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and I chose to stay behind instead of getting jabbed.

At first, I tried to get a medical waiver but my NP wasn’t able to sign. Then, I tried a religious waiver, but it wasn’t accepted. I fought hard to keep my spot. I prayed hard that I would still get to go. In the end, it was a no.

During this whole emotionally draining process, I confided in family members and a friend from home, but no one at school; not even my closest friends or roommates. As I’ve already mentioned, I was afraid of what people would think of me: She’s really not going to Oxford because she doesn’t wanna get the vaccine? What is wrong with her? What is she so scared of? I can’t believe she’s giving up this opportunity over something like this. 

This fear of other people’s opinions left me feeling completely alone. I chose to believe that no one understood before even giving them a chance. When I finally did tell those closest to me, I was met with understanding and even excitement over my decision to stay.

Although I was devastated to receive the email that informed me of the required vaccination for participation, I’ve made peace with how everything turned out. I listed out in my journal all the wonderful reasons to stay behind and I was surprised at how many there were.

Through all this, I’ve had to lean into God and learn to trust, as cliche as it is to say, that His plan is greater than my own. I had to follow where the Prince of Peace led me, and at the end of the day, I felt more peace about staying in California next semester instead of getting vaccinated to go abroad. 

I still have my doubts. I still fear what other people may think of me, but I’m not afraid to talk about it anymore. Although I’m unhappy with the direction our country and world are headed, I am encouraged nearly every day when I remember the hope I have in Jesus. The promise of everything being made new keeps me going like nothing else. When I’m disappointed by what I see around me, I take comfort in knowing that through Christ, I have victory. Evil will not — cannot — prevail.

If you are troubled by the current state of our world, the division, the brokenness, the violence, the hatred, I want to encourage you with these verses from Revelation 21: 

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Revelation 21:1-4

Those of us who have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior are saved. We have been renewed, redeemed, and cleansed by His blood, and we have the hope of eternal life. The world is in shambles, but our God is in control. Evil may be rampant, but our God has the ultimate victory. We may face trials, but Jesus walks with us through it all. 

These have been my constant reminders throughout the semester and all of this year. I am always encouraged when I remember the hope I have in Jesus of a new world and eternal life, and I thank God for so graciously sending His son down to save me.

For further encouragement, I recommend reading Psalm 73 and listening to a song I’ve been loving called “Sweet Ever After” by Ellie Holcomb featuring Bear Rineheart.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We have much to be thankful for.

Grace and peace,


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