Wednesday, May 16, 2012

TrueStory: Praying with the college admissions interviewer

I said a prayer as I walked into my admissions interview at the University of Chicago.

It was the summer before my senior year of high school and my dad and I were on a trip across the country to visit colleges. We had just spent the day before visiting the nearby Wheaton College, and had some extra time in the morning before our flight out of Chicago to the northeast to see more schools.

I wasn't praying so much that I would do well - I wasn't too nervous, and wasn't that interested in the University of Chicago anyway - but just that God would use our time for His purposes. I didn't have any kind of agenda; I simply wanted to be open to what God might have planned.

I sat down with the interviewer, who pulled out a questionnaire that I had filled out earlier. He immediately pointed to the question about what I wanted to do as a career, to which I had written "minister". At this time I was still firmly Protestant and thought I'd be a Protestant pastor.

"So you want to be a minister?" he asked.

"Yes, that's what I'm thinking now."

He paused. "I...I'm just moved that someone at your age would have such strong convictions to want to dedicate your life in that way." He laughed. "You do realize that the University of Chicago is a hotbead of atheism? Why would you want to come here?"

I found it funny that he would describe his school in such straightforward terms, particularly in an admissions interview. "Well, I'm looking for a good education, and maybe an place like this could be something that really stretches me."

He said again that he was really moved that someone at my age believed in Jesus so strongly, so I asked him what his beliefs were. He explained that he had studied philosophy and was working on a masters degree in religion, and not just to study things in a detached way, but to really seek Truth. He said that depending on the day he was either convinced that there was no God at all or that Christianity was absolutely true.

Lately he had been thinking a lot about when Pontius Pilate asked Jesus 'What is truth?': "Do you remember how Jesus answered?"

I remembered the passage: "Yeah, doesn't Jesus say that whoever listens to him hears the truth?"

Antonio Ciseri's Ecce Homo!, 1871
"No." He grabbed a Bible - I can't remember if he had the Bible with him or if I had one in my bag - either way, a Bible was quickly produced in the admissions interview for the University of Chicago. "That's what most people think." He flipped to John 18.37-39 and showed me the passage. "See, that's what Jesus says before Pilate asks the question. Then Pilate asks him 'What is truth?' and Jesus doesn't give an answer!" He looked up at me. "That's a philosophical question! And Jesus is given the opportunity to answer, and he doesn't!"

We didn't talk about anything else on my questionaire or about the school; we talked about the Gospel the rest of the interview until we were past our time.

It seemed to make sense to ask him, "Do you want to pray?"

He looked at me and laughed. "Uh, we don't normally pray in admissions interviews."

"Well I don't think this has been a normal admissions interview."

He hesitated for a second. "Good point. All right, let's pray."

We bowed our heads. I prayed that God would lead him to the Truth and bless the rest of our day. We said Amen, shook each others hands, and I headed back out to my dad.


  1. that is such a cool story!! Seriously! I went to IIT (Illinois Institute of Technology) for undergrad and that school is DEFINITELY a hotbead of atheism. Ironically, I joined the Catholic student group and met some of the greatest, most brilliant, most devout YOUNG CATHOLICS I have ever known. Most of my spiritual growth occurred while part of that group, at this very atheist university, who celebrated "sex week," hosted talks for gay marriage etc etc. Oh, God definitely works in mysterious ways, but always leads us where He wants us to be :-)

    1. yes, God has people in places we'd least expect. lol I certainly found that to be the case at Wheaton College too

  2. Brantly, you are full of intriguing and inspiring stories. Thanks for sharing.

  3. "Well, I'm looking for a good education, and maybe an place like this could be something that really stretches me."

    My son, who is considering the priesthood, consciously chose to not attend a nearby Catholic college for the same reason. He graduated last week with a sturdier faith than he entered with.

    1. Wonderful to hear. The crucible can either strengthen us or destroy us, right?

  4. Pilate wobbles away and does not wait for an answer.