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August 11, 2021

Where Does Our Help Come From?

By Chloe Cropper, Cornell ’23

Editor’s note: This article was reprinted with permission from Cornell Claritas, “an ecumenical, interdenominational Christian publication that was founded on the hope of starting thoughtful Christian conversations within the academic community at Cornell University.”

There are few things that elicit such pure joy within me as the first bite of boneless wings with Boom Boom sauce do, under the fluorescent lights of a crowded Sheetz dining room. For those unfortunate enough to have never encountered this fine dining establishment, Sheetz is the East Coast’s premier location for gourmet gas station food. What’s so special about a gas station, you might ask?

Lebanon, PA, USA - October 5, 2016: Sheetz sign at chain of convenience stores with coffee, cold drinks, groceries, and Made-to-Order food, and self-serve gas, they are daily and never close.

Gas stations exist as an in-between for travelers, a place to recharge and refuel—a place where most people want to spend as little time as possible. Yet, for a small-town Pennsylvanian like myself, Sheetz has always been more of a final destination than a pit stop. Sad? Go to Sheetz to drown your sorrows in Boom Boom sauce. Happy? Go to Sheetz to celebrate with your friends. Studying for a test? Grab a table at Sheetz. Going on a date? Sheetz. Need somewhere to eat before prom? Sheetz. Need somewhere neutral to break up with your significant other? Sheetz.

I distinctly remember the existential crisis that my friends from high school and I had the night before we all went our separate ways for college—and it took place in, you guessed it, the Sheetz dining room. I say all of this completely unironically; this gas station truly holds a special place in my heart and served as a home base for many of the milestones and little moments of my childhood and teenage years.

Sheetz is something tangible that I cling to. While most people probably do not share my passion for gas station aesthetics, we all have something in our lives that we turn to. Your “go to” might be achievement in academics, athletics, or a relationship, but at the end of the day we all seek things that bring us joy and contentment—those comfort zones within our control that bring some semblance of clarity and meaning to life. 

Just as Sheetz was created to be a temporary stop on a traveler’s journey, so too is our existence on Earth merely a state of in-between on our journey to eternity. And just as I romanticize Sheetz, so too do we continue to glorify the things of this Earth, even though we were created for so much more. No matter how much joy I get from a Sheetz run, the night always has to come to an end. Why then do I persist in seeking fulfillment from sources that run out, even though God offers me His unconditional love? It should be a no-brainer: making a decision between an infinite, inexhaustible source and a source that is here today and gone tomorrow. 

We suffer from structural, inescapably, deep-rooted brokenness; as the Scripture says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Rom. 3:23)” This sin will literally lead us to death and eternal separation from God, which is absolutely terrifying. I know this, and yet, I still grow complacent in my brokenness, compartmentalizing it away in the farthest corners of my mind, and doing everything I can to justify my sinful nature with worldly reasoning. 

At a place like Cornell, it is hard to resist being sucked down the rabbit hole of competition and comparison. The need to prioritize personal achievement in order to have a valid sense of identity begins to feel necessary. The things I give my time to end up becoming a system of self-validation when I believe I am successful and a system of self-destruction for when I am not. I sense my own obscurity and mediocrity, and try to run away from those feelings by pursuing things that just leave me feeling even more obscure and mediocre. In the heightened pressures of current culture, it is incredibly important to ask ourselves what we run to—as the Bible says, “I lift my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? (Psalm 121:1-2)”  

What do we run to in times of thanksgiving? In lamentation? What about in loneliness? When the answer to this question is something other than Jesus Christ, then we are destined to be let down. 

In a world so cutthroat, it feels counterintuitive to embrace God’s love. We are taught that we need to be constantly achieving in order to have worth. But that very concept is why it is incredibly important to remind ourselves of where our help comes from. As Psalm 121 states, “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

God created us to spend eternity with Him. And it was this seemingly simple truth that changed my life and shifted the source of my worth from earthly validation to His unconditional love. We need to fully absorb and take this truth to heart in order to make the most of our time here at Cornell, and on this Earth. When the inevitable identity crisis or imposter syndrome hits, have we internalized the truths of God’s love to fall back upon?

The popular worship song by The Afters, “I Run To You,” has become my “go to” when I feel myself becoming trapped by temporal things. Three lines in particular stand out to me:

You welcome me back home
You tell me I belong
You forgive all my wrongs

God relentlessly pursues me—even when I skip my quiet time because I think studying for a prelim is more important. I am ashamed to admit the ways in which I have allowed academic goals to take over my life throughout the past two years. I tend to see self-worth in this life as a mutually exclusive situation, where in order for me to “win,” others around me must lose. My selfishness blinds me to the fact that God’s love is not a scarce resource. It is a well that never runs dry. 

It takes courage to make a serious effort to prioritize a relationship with God over academic and career success, but I believe this is what we are called to do. We need to make a daily choice to eliminate the vicious cycle of lies and fears that can creep into the base of our identity.

I have always struggled with taking God’s truths and actually applying them to my life. I read and hear about the goodness of God, about His limitless power and love for us, but it does not actually take root in my brain. How do we make the transition from words on a paper to an actual absorption of the implications of what God has done for us, and a tangible change in the way we live?

Fighting against the current of what we have been conditioned to believe for our entire lives seems incredibly daunting, but there are some simple things that I feel have helped me grow closer to God: spending time daily in God’s word and in prayer, focusing on encouraging and lifting up others in situations that I feel particularly competitive in, and memorizing verses that I can refer back to when I catch myself falling into toxic thought patterns.

I want to be more genuine and Christ-like in the way that I treat both myself and others. God might have gifted us with His grace and mercy, but that is not an excuse for us to take Him for granted and be lazy in our faith. Accountability is important, but it is easy to let it slip through the cracks in the midst of prelims, projects, and internships.

Ultimately, we are all running towards something. If it is something rooted in this in-between life, we will be left empty. But if we root ourselves in God’s love, we will have a source that cares about us more than we can fathom. The first taste of boneless bites at Sheetz is pretty life-changing, but it does not even begin to scratch the surface of how amazing the first taste of heaven will be like. John 10:10 says it best: The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

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