President Davis shares her story at freshman chapel
Published: September 04, 2023
Author: Terri Sunderland
The recent Welcome Weekend at Greenville University included a Sunday morning chapel to welcome traditional undergraduate students to the 2023-2024 school year.
GU President Suzanne Davis was the featured speaker for the service. President Davis passionately shared her journey that started when she sat in that very room as a student at Greenville College.
Back then, Davis sat in the back of the chapel as a skeptic. She came to college primarily to run track and play volleyball. She wanted to get her degree, attend law school, and skirt through “all this Christianity stuff," as she termed it. "What I didn't expect,” Davis said, "was that I would meet Jesus here."
She told the students that just like her, their story here doesn't have to begin with knowing Jesus. She just invited them to be open to discovering Him, much like she did.
WHO IS THIS JESUS?
Davis shared the biblical story of the adulterous woman brought before Jesus in John chapter 8.
Yet the preface to that story chronicles an argument about who Jesus may be. There were dedicated followers who believed they knew Jesus and all there was to know of Him; the masses were following Jesus, proclaiming He must be the Messiah. Even the guards who were supposed to arrest Jesus weren't sure they should arrest Him because they were fearful that He just might be the son of God. Then there was the cautious skeptic, the Pharisee Nicodemus, who was intrigued with this man and said, "What if this man is the son of God?"
Davis invited the students to assess who they might be most like as they began their time at GU.
Davis confessed that she was much like Nicodemus during her first year at Greenville College. She was searching for something but wasn't willing to go all in all at once. She was a skeptical observer seeking something but didn't know quite what.
JOHN 8: THE WOMAN CAUGHT IN ADULTERY
The Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus. As the crowd was ready to stone her, Jesus said, "Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to cast a stone at her." Slowly, they all went away. "Then neither can I condemn you," Jesus said to her.
The Pharisees walked away because they knew they'd sinned.
"Don't let the fact that others may look like they aren't sinners be a reason for you to withdraw from Jesus,” Davis said. “Sin is what we all have in common. Whether you believe in Jesus or not, there is a God, and we are not Him. If you allow Jesus to meet you where you are, you'll find a whole new world with Him."
Davis suggested to the students that maybe some are like the Pharisees, who think they've figured everything out. Yet, there is always more to discover about Jesus.
"I was like the woman in the story. I was also like the people wanting to cast stones," said Davis. But she sat in the back of the chapel and began to learn about Jesus.
PRESIDENT DAVIS’ STORY
"In my own story, I was so stricken by grief I could not reconcile my current experience with a loving God,” Davis continued. “I ended up here at GU because it was just a few miles across the river from where they were studying a genetic disease that was taking the lives of both of my brothers. My dad – my rock – was dying of cancer, and one of my brothers was in ICU my entire first year of college. I would travel daily to the Children's Hospital in St. Louis.
"I questioned God. ‘If you are real, why is this happening?’ When you have that void in your heart and can't reconcile your experiences, you chase after things that fill your mind or body.
"This condemned woman was chasing after the wind, like me. She didn't want to be touched, but Jesus touched her. Jesus called her by name because she was a child of God.
"Maybe you are like a Pharisee and think you've figured it all out. Maybe you’re more like Nicodemus, and you are intrigued. Or maybe you're like the adulterous woman, chasing the wind and struggling with grief. Your story begins now."
WHAT LEGACY WILL YOU LEAVE?
"Whatever your story is, it matters not. Jesus has already forgiven you. He is the light of the world that casts out all darkness. I didn't change overnight, but in a moment, God assured me that He knew my name and that I was a child of God. One step after another, I began chasing after God. I surrounded myself with others who brought me along in a positive direction. I started attending things with more of an open mind. It's not like I stopped the destructive behaviors all at once, but I let Jesus heal my grieving heart step by step."
Davis challenged the students to think about who they want to be and what legacy they will leave. She shared that one of the most compelling things that drew her to Christianity was the 12 B-team disciples who changed the world. Their testimony still has an impact thousands of years later.
She challenged students to meet Jesus where they are. "He's open to changing your heart and healing your mind. Every day, I learn something new about his love and grace.
"My brother left a legacy. He was a person of faith. He could barely talk but said, ‘Don't feel sorry for me. I am going to be with Jesus.’ Though he was a former athlete, he served with a stricken body as an activity director in a nursing home. Hundreds of people showed up to his funeral in a January snowstorm.
"I live in the 3 percent," said Davis. "The odds are 97 percent against me. It's statistically impossible that I live the life I live, and I don't take that for granted.
"Students, this is your journey over the next few years. Jesus wants to know you and heal you. What legacy will you leave when your time here is done? Let's discover Jesus together. We are so glad you're here.”