Commit and Deepen
Author and New York Times columnist David Brooks, who has visited us here at Baylor, argues that the people who "radiate a permanent joy" are the people who have given themselves over to lives of deep and loving commitment. To do this—to commit, that is—is to go against the grain. In an age of cynicism, it is easier to maintain a cool detachment. In the social media age, it is easier to critique, or argue, or give the curated appearances of a happy life. In our era of mistrust, it's easier to point out the flaws in institutions or communities than to do the hard, patient, hope-inspired labor of planting trees under whose shade you might not sit.
Don't mistake these observations for a boomer lament: no, we hear this all the time from those students who inspire us, who live the lives that are "worthy of the calling they have received," to borrow St. Paul's phrase. These are the people who make a difference in the world, who find meaning in their work, who tend to achieve at the high levels that matter, who indeed radiate joy.
In explaining how this happens, Brooks suggests that people who learn to make commitments tend to begin with a movement of the heart and soul. "You fall in love with something," he suggests, "a person or a cause or an idea, and if that love is deep enough, you decide to dedicate a significant chunk of your life to it." A commitment, then, is "a promise made from love." It's those things you can't not do. And as we pursue those things in their depth, they change us. Irish poet John O'Donohue contends that God hides in the depth of things, and that seems to be true. When we commit to people and communities and causes—when we really commit to them from our own innermost being—we end up, somehow, as both the transformer and the transformed. Brooks suggests that our commitments give us our identity. They give us purpose. They allow us a higher level of freedom—not freedom from, but freedom to. And they build our moral character; they are "the school of moral formation."
And from that, joy.
but when I wake to the heat of morning
galloping down the highway of my life
something hopeful rises in me
rises and runs me out into the road
and i lob my fierce thigh high
over the rump of the day and honey
i ride i ride
Here in your second year at Baylor, it's time for you to commit. There's no more time to be a dilettante. Commit to things in their depth. And from your depth. Risk having it said of you, "she was too earnest." And when you are stirred by the heart and soul, commit—not because it's cool or because you need to virtue-signal or because you think you need "volunteer hours." Those won't do. Commit because it will transform you and because perhaps you'll find that God does hide in the depth of things.
That's a bit of what happened for Alex, who discovered her interest in behavioral medicine research and committed to translating the knowledge she helped discover into real action, for real people who find themselves in a vulnerable state. Rather than simply publishing her results—which she's done prolifically—she committed herself to Waco teens experiencing homelessness, partnering with The Cove to help them find health and thrive.
Once you begin to commit deeply to things that matter, you'll find yourself in a posture of giving. Keep reading to learn more about how and where you might give.