APU Grew My Faith in the Midst of Skepticism

by Abigail Reed

"Though I still struggle through seasons of skepticism, my faith continues to develop by means of study, poetry, discipline, art, friends, family, and, at the root of it all, submission to God."

Although Jensen Kirkendall ’20 decided to follow Jesus at a young age, surrounded by a Christian family, he grew up wrestling with questions about his faith. Who is God? What do I really know about Him? How am I supposed to have faith in what I can’t even see? Uncertainty settled in, and his intellectual bent drove him to seek answers. As he searched, his parents encouraged him to continue showing up in a community of believers, and he soon found himself as a freshman English major and honors student at Azusa Pacific University.

Several weeks into the semester, Kirkendall sat around a table with a group of his peers and a professor, Bibles open in front of them. During this typical Honors College class session, they engaged in intellectual discussion and study of Scripture—touching on some of the faith-related questions Kirkendall carried with him.

“Many experiences prior to college drove me to believe I was missing an emotional component in my walk with Jesus,” said Kirkendall. “The Honors College taught me the value of using my intellect in my walk with God, remaining faithful even when I don’t ‘feel’ spiritual.”

Kirkendall continued his studies at APU’s High Sierra program, reading works of great philosophers under towering trees, trekking through the Yosemite Valley, and forming friendships with the small group of students journeying alongside him. In the mountains, his picture of faith continued to grow—as he grappled with his questions about God, he learned the importance of community in the midst of doubt.

“Living with people who cared about living life well shaped my faith and taught me truths about God,” said Kirkendall. “They showed me how to truly love, be attentive, and actively live out what I learned.”

Back on main campus, Kirkendall’s experiences with poetry began to open up new avenues for ways to both grapple with and affirm God’s nature—poetry’s emphasis on imagery and beauty rather than rationality cultivated a growing sense of wonder and connection with God.

Before long, his studies led him to once again pack his bags, this time traveling to the towering spires and cobblestone streets of the oldest university in the English speaking world: the University of Oxford in England.

To culminate the semester long program, Kirkendall embarked on an ancient pilgrimage over 1,000 years old: the Camino de Santiago. Against the rolling hills of the Spanish countryside, he discovered the importance of disciplining your body alongside your spirit in a series of rhythms—fasting, kneeling, walking, and talking as forms of prayer—translating the physical to spiritual.

Back on campus as a senior, Kirkendall plans on completing his M.A. in English and hopes to become a professor. Whether hiking in Yosemite, writing and discussing poetry, or exploring the libraries of Oxford, Kirkendall’s skepticism grew into an honest and ever deepening pursuit of Christ during his time at APU.

This article is part of a series that features the inspiring faith stories of APU's students, faculty, and staff. If you are a member of the APU community and would like to share your faith story, contact Rachel White at [email protected].

Abigail Reed is a public relations intern in the Office of University Relations. She is a liberal studies major with an honors humanities minor.