Fourth Year Reflection: Tyler Hutcherson
Hello Incoming University Student,
If you are anything like I was four years ago, you are beaming with excitement over a long-anticipated acceptance into UVA. Senior year is cruising along and you are making lots of memories in these last few weeks of high school. I promise that your upcoming time at UVA has the potential to inspire some of the most life-giving, fulfilling and meaningful moments in your life. I write to you today because, while I was excited to enter college four years ago, I was also struggling to find fulfillment in my schoolwork, sports, music and relationships. Every moment of joy in these activities seemed fleeting.
Have you felt this? Have you felt the emptiness of never being satisfied in victory or good grades, or in affirmation? I found that this was the norm for me in high school. Everything I was taught confirmed the notion of working really hard and aiming for success in every category of life. It sounds nice, but it led me to self-doubt, perfectionism and selfishness as I sought my own glory. When I look back, I see a guy that was blinded by his pursuit of success, as defined by society. What I didn’t see was the heart of God, relentlessly chasing after me.
Though I grew up in a Christian home with loving and supportive parents, I was never challenged in my beliefs, convicted by a biblical calling to love and seek justice for all people or questioned about my “faith” in any capacity. That all changed very quickly. UVA can be a very intense place. The people here are interesting and inspiring; it seems like everyone is passionate about something cool. This makes for a great mixing bowl of ideas and opportunities, but also creates a hectic, chaotic and stressful environment at times, filled with unhealthy competition, jealousy and pressure to give into the temptations of a broken college lifestyle.
During the first few weeks of my first year, I vividly remember walking down Chancellor Street and seeing a big house with a sign that said, “Center for Christian Study.” As I looked nervously into the windows by the front door, I saw people smiling, laughing, catching up with friends, studying, sipping coffee (basically liquid gold at this point) and, overall, loving life. Encouraged by this picture of community, I walked inside and sat in the front study room to get some work done for class. Within an hour, I met three or four new friends who saw me and introduced themselves to me. It surprised me how quickly these friendly faces greeted me with such hospitality and acceptance.
It doesn’t matter what time of day it is or what the weather is like, the Study Center is a consistent community amidst an inconsistent world.
Throughout my time at UVA I realized how rare it is to find a place like the Study Center. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is or what the weather is like, the Study Center is a consistent community amidst an inconsistent world. I became more involved at the Study Center through its small groups and events over the years because I felt the loving presence of God in that space.
One example of the way the Study Center serves me (and countless others) is Exam Snacks, which are, more realistically, full course meals. During finals each semester, the Study Center provides a place to relax in the comfort of good friends, food and fellowship. It is such a blessing to stop by during, or after, a long day of studying for finals, and be welcomed with smiles and laughs, accompanied by delicious food! The Study Center is a safe place that enables us to grow closer to God by fostering this expression of his abounding love. Because of this, I have found it easier to become the person God created me to be.
Whether it is broken relationships, fear, uncertainty, temptation or sin, college is filled with roadblocks. The most impactful way the Study Center has provided me a home through these things has been through one-on-one discipleship/mentorship with the undergraduate men’s director Jay McCabe. Jay and I connected at the beginning of my fourth year when I was going through a difficult time of pain and suffering. I will never forget that first day we spent together, meeting over Bodo’s bagels and hot coffee. From the start of our friendship, I could tell he cared about my life and was willing to share his wisdom with me. Jay serves students by being a solid role model, walking in faith (not just talking about it), listening well, encouraging his fellow Christian men, providing resources, praying for and with us and the list goes on and on. Through my relationship with Jay, and by the incredible will of the Lord, I overcame my brokenness by resting in Christ and believing in the power of the cross.
During college, my view of the gospel has radically expanded. I am still trying to fathom the way Jesus enters into our suffering through his death on the cross. Instead of placing God in a box, and narrowly viewing the world with a judgmental eye, I have learned to see my friends, family and neighbors as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We are all made in the image of the Creator, but we live in a broken world. My heart is now torn for those who are less fortunate than I, for those who struggle on a day-to-day basis, for those who don’t have a voice and for those who are hurting. The Study Center, through its holistic approach to ministry, has shaped my faith to show compassion to others because God first showed compassion to me.
You may or may not be a person of faith, and I don’t want to assume that the struggles you face are the very same that I faced four years ago. However, my hope is that this letter enables you to see something at work that is bigger than our fears. There is incredible value in finding a loving community that encourages and sharpens you. God is working in magnificent and glorious ways in Charlottesville and at the University. The Study Center has informed my time here immensely and I will be forever thankful for the relationships I have built inside its humble walls.
I wish you the best in your first year of college. Lean into challenges. Seek justice and unity. I pray that the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your heart and your mind.
Tyler C. Hutcherson
After graduating this spring, Tyler will remain in Charlottesville to pursue a Master’s degree from UVA in data science.