2019 Essay Prompt
Five years after the founding of Telios Law in 2012, the Telios Law Scholarships were established by Theresa Sidebotham to encourage the next generation to live a whole or complete life. Theresa grew up as a missionary kid in Indonesia and is a mother to four missionary kids, but also finished raising her sons, attended law school, and founded Telios Law in Colorado. Her personal experience attending a Christian college was formative and inspiring.
The Greek word telios defines successful results in terms of being complete, whole, or mature. The English word "grit," applied to psychology, means a firmness of mind or spirit or unyielding courage. All scholarship applicants were required to complete an essay in which they described the two concepts relate for them, and how they have influenced their personal success, by drawing upon significant life experiences, academic learning, goals, motivation for achieving those goals, and/or the stories of admired heroes.
E.'s Winning Sojourner Scholarship Essay
Growing up, heights always terrified me. And they still do—kind of. I remember looking up at a climbing wall, telling myself “It’s not that high,” only to find myself paralyzed halfway up by a sudden, crippling fear. My legs, no matter how much I tried, refused to move; I couldn’t climb back down. I only had to do one thing: sit back in my harness—but I couldn’t do it. How could I willfully let go of the safe, strong wall and fall backwards into the air… even if I was wearing a harness? Now all that drama seems small and silly; after all, the harness will catch me. But sometimes it is for the small things that I need the most courage.
When I join short-term mission trips to villages here in Asia, we warn groups of the big challenges: new, very spicy food, sleeping on floors, no electricity, and others. However, I have been joining these trips for 15 years. I can overcome these challenges; sleeping on floors, trying new food, each one is a visible sign of devotion to a noble cause, namely the Great Commission. What about the small things though? What happens when some village teenagers ask me to hang out with them, even though they use slang I don’t know, and I will probably be confused the entire time? What happens when, during a farewell ceremony, I’m asked to join a dance I have never practiced—one which will make me look like a fool as I clumsily attempt to mimic the dancer next to me? It’s these small sacrifices that need courage, even if I’m laughed at, not praised.
One of my favorite passages, Hebrews 11, shows this courage perfectly. It’s sometimes referred to as the “Heroes of the Faith” passage, because it walks through the faith of the Bible’s greatest heroes, people like Abel, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, and Moses. But my favorite part comes in verses 13-16, where the author explains the Heroes of the Faith all died, and did not receive a reward, only a promise. During their lives, they were not exalted or praised either, but laughed at and ridiculed. In fact, they were “destitute, afflicted, [and] mistreated” (Heb. 11:37). Yet God still accepted them, and “is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city” (v. 16). But God has not fulfilled that promise yet, so that myself and Christians today can also receive the promise of God’s city and his telios perfection (v. 40).
Which is why in Matthew 5:48, Jesus commands, “Be perfect [telios], therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect [telios].” I cannot reach perfection, but He can perfect me. Additionally, even though he came with a huge task, to save the world, he took time for the little things too—attending a wedding, sitting and eating with strangers, and holding children in his arms. His holiness and perfection are complete, in the big and the little, and I am called to the same. I am called to do so in villages, and in college, no matter how many worlds in between.
Although the future is a mystery, I want my college experience to glorify God in the big and the little. College is not just a degree, or graduation day; there are also about 1,400 days before. I want to pursue the big goals—a degree, a career, and ultimately spreading the gospel for God’s glory, but I want to love and share His goodness every day, whether in a Christian college in the U.S. or back home in Asia. I want every day to be a success, even if I cannot see it, as Christ continually refines me and I continue learning from Him. I pray God will give me the courage to take time to love people, to eat with them and listen to their stories, and laugh, and share God’s goodness. Again, the future is a mystery, but I rest confident God will use me and my 15 years of experience in Asia for his kingdom, whether in the big or the little.