Humans of Redeemer

A Story from Noah Van Brenk

            For Noah Van Brenk—a current instructor of ENG-104, Ways of Reading Poetry and Drama—teaching at Redeemer feels like a homecoming. Noah graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English literature in 2018. Since then, he completed his master’s in English literature at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Now, Noah is back at Redeemer teaching a first-year course that just six years ago he participated in as a student. 


“My favourite story or specific moment from Redeemer is probably from when I took the first version of the mythology class. During that class, we often compared classical myth to scriptural depictions of God. Knowing classical mythology emphasizes all the ways in which God, as we understand him through Scripture, is strikingly different from other gods. In Greek myths, there are many stories in which gods reveal themselves, and it is problematic for human beings. Many times, Greek gods are seen without consent and end up killing those who witnessed them. Although the Bible tells us that we can’t physically see God, he still reveals himself in a way that we can survive and also be redeemed. 


“The day that I remember being particularly transformative was the class on the Cupid and Psyche myth; Cupid, also known as Eros, ends up kidnapping Psyche, this human woman, and marries her. The whole point of the story is that he desires her so intensely. Dr. Juilfs posed the following to the class: ‘What if we considered God wanting us as much as Eros wanted Psyche?’ It radically reordered how I viewed my relationship with God.


“It was moments like this that really shaped the way I viewed my professors at Redeemer. I have always esteemed each of the English department professors in various ways. Being back at Redeemer as an instructor is a different kind of joy—to be able to work alongside those faculty that I respect so much and I am so grateful for. Now I am learning from them in a different way: how to effectively teach a class, as opposed to being a student myself. And it is a real joy now, as a twenty-five-year-old as opposed to a twenty-year-old, to be able to talk about literary texts as a  peer with them. It’s more of a sharing of ideas as opposed to me primarily being the recipient of some sort of instruction. 


“While I am no longer a student at Redeemer, I can still remember, quite well, what it is like to be an undergraduate student. University is a stressful time for everyone, first-year, fourth-year, and everyone in-between. So, if I were to give my undergraduate-self advice, I would say, ‘Be kind to yourself.’ There is no shame in asking for help. My mythology story reminds me of the importance of being willing and open to be surprised in whatever way that looks like. Be willing and open to be surprised at how God can reveal himself, whether that is in your classroom or in your relationships that you form as a student with other students and professors.”