Dear Tom

Dear Tom,

First and foremost: thank you. It’s a big ask for an Associate Director of Admission to give an hour of his day during this time of year. I’m grateful to you and for you.

When the idea to write about work as “bringing cosmos to chaos” started bouncing around in my brain last year, you were the first person I wanted to talk to.

Sure, I first became aware of that “cosmos to chaos” phrase while reading Madeleine L’Engle’s book about faith and art, and I imagine people don’t think of college admission as a particularly creative process. But what you do is creative. You help construct a group of individuals who will flourish in and contribute to the University of Richmond, a place you clearly love. You transform a large, unwieldy mass into something that is healthy, dynamic, and purposeful. You help people find their place in the world. That is no small thing. And after speaking with you about the specifics of your work, I realized even more exactly how not small it is.

We’ve known each other for a lot of years, and I’ve always appreciated your thoughtful, not-easily-rattled way of moving through the world. That shines through when you’re up front leading liturgy. I get a lump in my throat every time you walk us through our time of confessing our sins—talk about bringing cosmos to chaos, right? It gets me every time because of how you encourage us to go all in, to bring our sins before God fully knowing our weakness and fully trusting in our salvation through Jesus.

Right now you might be thinking, “That’s all very kind, Val, but what does this have to do with my job?”

Stay with me a minute.

When you lead us in that time of confession, I feel you show such trust in and love for the process—and, more importantly, the result. When you talked to me about your work in U of R’s Admission Office, I got the exact same feeling.

It didn’t matter which part of your day-to-day work you were talking about:

Tweaking your office’s customer-relationship management database so it hums along as it should.

Your efforts to demystify the college admission process for prospective students who are in the thick of one of the most overwhelming times of their lives.

How last year you and your team narrowed down over 12,000 applicants to about 3,500 acceptances to then make the class of approximately 800 freshmen who arrived on campus last August.

These examples scream of bringing cosmos to chaos—of creating and nurturing order, of setting things into place while in the place where you were put by God. During our conversation, I got the feeling that you understand and appreciate this about your work. It was a joy to see.

But what really got to me during our conversation, what left me with a Tom-leading-confession-esque lump in my throat, was when you told me about something you try to do before reading each student’s application. In the few seconds it takes for the application system to load a student’s file, you pray for that student by name and ask that he or she will end up at the college “where they will most encounter Jesus…whether that’s for the first time or the hundredth time.”

God knows where He wants those students. He knows where they need to be: in a place that they will draw closer to Him through His Son. In your prayer for that to happen above all other things, you are being what Madeleine L’Engle calls “a co-creator with our maker” as you ask our God to move these kids ever closer to the new creations they will become through Jesus.

You’re imaging God’s heart, Tom. That is truly bringing cosmos to chaos.

So, I pray you remember that in the moments when you feel burdened by the task of helping lay the course for young people’s future, or bogged down in data or team conversations that are going in circles. In the moments of drudgery and egos and stress, I pray that you remember who made you; I pray that you remember who you belong to.

I pray that you approach those moments in your work in the same way you ask us to approach confession: fully aware of your weakness but also fully aware of what God has done—and is still doing—through Jesus.

Grace and peace,

Val

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