“The older you get, the more you start to realize that your life only makes sense looking backwards,” Jeff Cramer said.
Yet as the man of many hats prepares to take on a new role in life, he’s found there’s also a sense of anticipation and renewal that comes from this season of transition.
Working at Taylor for roughly 25 years, Cramer has served as the associate professor of computer science and engineering, the director of the Honors Guild and one of the four professors in charge of the all-freshman and transfers course, foundations of the Christian liberal arts. Yet Cramer’s excitement for the next phase of his life largely stems from a hope of returning to the roots of his identity.
“I didn't realize what happened,” Cramer said, “but [one thing] I have really been enjoying during this transitional year is there's a sense in which I'm looking forward to not being Jeff Cramer, the Taylor professor, but just going back to being Jeff Cramer … just the regular guy that I am who wants to live his life the same way he’s been trying to teach students.”
It’s a message that has long come across through his foundational core section, which focuses not only on creating a “right relationship with creation,” but on finding purpose as a child of God living in a world of apathy and self-righteousness.
It’s a message, too, however, that Cramer hopes to spend the rest of his life fully living out — doing more than just presenting a way of life to the students he’s taught over the past 10 years of teaching and restructuring foundations.
“I'm just ready to leave here and go do the things I've talked about for so many years,” Cramer said. “I want students to want to know God better and to see that their love of God will lead them towards action in this world, and for them to see that there is good work that needs to be done in the kingdom.”
It’s about realizing that our gifts matter today — playing some small part in building up the kingdom of Heaven.
For Cramer, this has meant taking on a role with Footsteps Ministries, a partner of Taylor University. But following the passing of his father last year, it’s also meant reflecting back on another idea presented in foundations: that of eschatology, or the study of the future and its connection to us in the present.
“Just over a year ago, when my dad passed away, is when I started to have serious thoughts about, ‘What do I want to do with the rest of my life?’” Cramer said. “Because it causes you to think, ‘Wow, life is short. Is there something beyond Taylor for me?’ and as I thought about it, I quickly started realizing that I was feeling a nudge that maybe there was something next.”
Without any sort of path forward, Cramer chose to act on the sentiment, declaring that this school year, the year of fall 2022, would be his last year teaching at Taylor.
Still, with God’s provision, it seems Cramer won’t be taking a step fully in the dark.
“The exciting thing that happened in this process is I found what I'm doing next,” Cramer said. “And starting this summer, I am going to be working with Footstep Ministries leading student trips to Greece and Italy.”
The role is one that plays to many of the professor’s interests. Having numerous opportunities to travel previously, Cramer’s passion for learning, global relationships and teaching have aligned in ways he had never truly planned for.
Yet looking back, Cramer now has the opportunity to combine many of the stepping stones of his life so far, and, more than that, has the chance to live out what he deems are the two most important things for Taylor students to take away from their own time at the university.
“Learn to love God more. And learn to love learning more,” Cramer said. “Taylor was extremely transformative for me. Three really big things happened to me at Taylor. I learned that I want to serve God and love Jesus for the rest of my life. I learned that I like to learn and I wanted to learn more … and I got serious about it.”
It’s that seriousness — that dedication — that has allowed Cramer the pathway he’s taken up today. And while that path hasn’t always been obvious, the professor certainly had it right in one respect: sometimes, life doesn’t make sense until you’re looking back, reflecting on the past even as you prepare for the renewal of the future.