Spiritual Life Week Recap


Students, pastor explore “Rising from Darkness to Light” during Spiritual Life Week

Using Micah 7:8b, “Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light,” as inspiration, Bluffton University students explored themes of failure and growth during Spiritual Life Week, which is held twice a year on campus. It’s a verse that resonates with many.

“This week has shown me that you can come back from failure; everybody experiences failure,” said Leslie Beasley, a sophomore education major from Columbus, Ohio. “The theme definitely resonates with me.”

Organized by students, the week featured events ranging from special worship sessions to a performance by singer-songwriters Jonathan Reuel and Jason Ropp. Many of the events were led by Rev. Matthew Yoder, pastor of Grace Mennonite Church in Pandora, Ohio.

Yoder connected with students by comparing the comic book heroes they have grown up with to Biblical heroes during a Feb. 13 Forum called, “Failure and Spiritual Growth in Myth, Marvel and the Age of Social Media.”

The presentation began with an analysis of the Biblical story of Jacob and the Marvel superhero movie “Thor: Ragnarok.”

Fleeing his father-in-law and preparing to face a brother who has vowed to kill him, Yoder explained Jacob is first visited by an angel of God. The two wrestle through the night, and Jacob is injured by the angel. At the end of this struggle for power, Jacob is spared but maintains a limp for the rest of his life. At his darkest moment, Jacob is blessed by God and is given a new name and destiny, Israel.

Yoder explained that Jacob “holds onto this experience of failure until it blesses him. He has struggled with men and God, and he has prevailed.”

So what does Jacob have in common with Thor? According to Yoder, a lot. “Like Jacob, Thor loses everything that makes Thor, Thor. He is known for his long hair and his red cape, he has two eyes and a hammer,” explained Yoder. By the end of the movie, Thor’s hammer is destroyed, his hair is cut, he loses his cape and his right eye, and his home is utterly destroyed.

“But, he gains new allies, a new identity as king of people--not a place--and a new look,” said Yoder. “Like Jacob, Thor enters into his new destiny with a limp.”

Yoder said he has found “there is something deeply spiritual, profoundly real and universally human” in the redemption process.

At the end of the week, Katie Keesbury, a senior Biblical and theological studies major from Bryan, Ohio, said she was renewed by the theme and events. “Every time Spiritual Life Week happens it’s awesome to see how God works, and you can tell he’s present in every event. ‘Where two or more come to fellowship I am there.’ It’s obvious during Spiritual Life Week.”


Matthew Yoder and students