May 25, 2022
Ampersand Issue 8: Humble and Gentle at Heart
Humble and Gentle at Heart: Preparing to Turn 40
“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.” —Psalm 84:5
Since 1982, Anselm House has been on a mission to help students and faculty at the University of Minnesota connect Christian faith and knowledge with all of life. What does this mission entail?
One way of understanding our mission is in contrast to two common, but erroneous views of the human condition.
The first, a particularly modern view common in the public university, sees the human struggle as being between the individual’s spirit and a repressive society that (often) stands in the way of self-realization and self-expression. This view dates at least back to Rousseau.
The second, a much older view with roots in Greco-Roman thought, is to see the human struggle as one between the mind (which was seen as residing in the soul) and the passions (resident in the body). Achieving virtue—strength, courage, self-control, and wisdom—involved sublimating the emotions to the dictates of reason.
We believe these views of the human struggle are deficient because they are rooted in a truncated understanding of the human person. The Scriptures teach us that we humans actually have a much deeper problem. And this problem is not narrowly “spiritual” or “philosophical.” It’s a fundamental problem, and as such it affects every aspect of our humanity, including of course our work at the university.
Whatever one’s field or future vocation, we see the defining human struggle as a contest over the loyalties or inclinations of what the Scriptures call “the heart”—the seat of our most basic orientation, what we trust (Proverbs 3:5; 23:26), what grips our imagination (Matthew 6:21), what we love.
Pastor Tim Keller puts it nicely: “The main human struggle is not between the heart and something else, but between forces that tear it in different directions. The great battle is deciding to what your heart’s greatest love, hope, and trust will be directed.”
At Anselm House our work of connecting faith and knowledge emerges from this deeper challenge—to help students and faculty settle the matter of what our heart loves most. As people within the university come to see their work in the light of God’s story, they can find their rest in the heart of Christ himself, who said, “Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29).
Over the last 39 years, Anselm House—and the MacLaurin Institute and Christian Student Fellowship before it—has been served by 52 board members, dozens of staff, and hundreds of volunteers and supporters. It’s been a conduit of God’s love for the U, strengthening literally thousands of students and faculty members for faithfulness in their public lives.
This past year was unlike any other at the University of Minnesota. It was one of marveling at the strange providences of God and endeavoring to make sense of the brokenness and contention all around us. By God’s grace, Anselm House has emerged more united around its mission and poised for growth.
As you peruse this issue of Ampersand, would you join us in celebrating the faithfulness of God in sustaining and blessing this mission amidst such a contentious and isolating year? And as we all enjoy a year of reunion and re-engagement, we invite you to pray with us for the reopening of campus this fall, as we help welcome the restless hearts of more than 50,000 students, faculty, and staff back to campus.
Finally, we would be honored to have you join us in reaching hearts on campus. In addition to your ongoing generosity, we invite you to join us—in-person, Lord willing!—on May 17, 2022 for our 40th Anniversary celebration and reunion. Please visit anselmfromtheheart.org/ to let us know if you are able to come.
The psalmist’s words with which I began, “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways of Zion” (Psalm 84:5), is our theme verse for this year. As we prepare for a year of celebrating forty years of ministry, know that it is our prayer for you as well.
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