Faculty Column: Associated Students president finds her responsibility in her identity

Janine Marderian discusses how God has used her job as AS president to stretch her out of her comfort zone.

Janine Marderian and Janine Marderian

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Every spring, Biola’s admissions department hosts informational seminars called “Junior Sessions,” designed to give prospective students an overview of Biola. In order to help high school students envision Biolan life, the admissions department recently added a new feature to their Junior Sessions by incorporating the perspectives of current students.

After speaking at just three sessions, I have realized that trying to explain the whole of Biola culture in 15 minutes is really difficult (shocker). Quite simply, we are a busy campus. But what I have found even more stretching is the exercise of reflecting on my own experience at Biola, and communicating it to a group of total strangers. These sessions have created space for thinking about my own development, and I have been struck by a theme that may not be entirely unique to my experience.

God stretches beyond expectations

It starts with the idea of the unexpected. Throughout high school, I had a distinct conception of what my life would look like during college. Collegiate Janine would have it all: the funniest friends, the 4.0, straight hair (not kidding!) and the captain’s position on my soccer team. This fantasy self is a far cry from the person who I am now, and one of the biggest surprises came this year in my role as AS president.

Interesting fact: I never wanted to end up here. The senior vice president position appealed to me since sophomore year — that was the position I ran for last spring, and that was the position that I gave up when John resigned in November. I was content where I was, but God pushed on different parts of my heart by asking me to very quickly move out of my comfort zone.

My first, and honestly still intuitive, reaction to being displaced was to assume the responsibility that was necessary to “fix it.” Creating stability, answering rumors, reviving trust and even satisfying the journalistic curiosity of the Chimes were my responsibilities. Sure, I had support from my VPs, parents, friends and boyfriend, but at the end of the day, the buck stopped with me. If things didn’t happen, I was the one who needed to have the answer … every time.

This is a bad way to live. It operates on one simple piece of sinful thinking: who I am is determined by the work that I do. This attitude didn’t stay confined in my work life. It seeped its way into my school and relationships as well.

Correct placement of responsibility and identity

It should come as no surprise that misplacing my identity resulted in the constant need to fulfill “fix-it” responsibilities. But if Romans 8 is right, my deepest identity lies in nothing other than my status as an adopted, beloved child of God.

So what am I really responsible for at the end of the day? High attendance at AS events? The complete satisfaction of every one of my staff members? A sufficiently interesting opinions column? If I believe Romans 8, the answer to all of those has to be a resounding “no.” God has defined who I am, so my deepest responsibility is to be close to him. My deepest responsibility corresponds precisely to my deepest identity, and when these two things are in their proper places, my lower-level roles and responsibilities will be rightly ordered as well.

Practical experience insists that this is true. If I am soft and open toward God, I listen to and love my staff, and parents and friends, well. If my heart is far from God’s, I serve my own needs and desires without thought for those around me. My individual responsibilities will come and go, but God is eternally strong and eternally faithful. I change. He doesn’t.

This concept is not complicated, nor is it new. But it is true, and it reminds me of how crucial it is to keep a close watch on where I place my responsibility and in whom I place my identity.

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Faculty Column: Associated Students president finds her responsibility in her identity