College and Beyond

This is the time of year when young people go off to college. Four years ago, I too had the privilege of sending my son, Christian, to Chapman University in Southern California. Our ride to the university was filled with memorable moments. We talked, I shared, and we reminisced for hours. There was much laughter and tears. These were the last hours I had with Christian, so I covered the topics. We talked about his walk with Jesus, forming new relationships, following God, and  girls. With a very sincere and thankful heart he told me that Leon and I had done a great job of teaching him life lessons.We arrived at the university and helped him move in. Then it was time to say goodbye. I get choked up just thinking about that moment. My son was moving out and starting another chapter of his life.

My second child is about to embark on the same adventure. Like many young people her age, she is in for an exciting and educationally rich time. This season of life has the potential to empower her academically, provide a more vibrant social environment, and help her clearly define long held values and beliefs. Plus, she’s going to have so much fun! This is what college offers. Students get to meet new people, and they are exposed to higher level thinking through more diverse classes. Best of all, college freshmen living away from home have increased responsibility and the opportunity to make life changing decisions. I know my daughter is going to do great!

Having one child that has graduated from college and another starting in a few weeks, I’m reminded of how pivotal this time of life is for our young people. The decisions that you make in life and the choices you make during your college years will impact your life forever. For me, there are three important questions a young person can ask as they start college.

1. Where will I spend eternity?

College is about learning and career aspirations, but what’s even more important are  eternal questions. A few weeks before I started college, I made the most important decision of my life. I didn’t make this decision out of fear, but out of encountering God’s amazing love and grace. On a beautiful Sunday afternoon thirty years ago, I decided to believe with all my heart that Jesus Christ, the son of God, came to this world to take my sins away. I repented of my sins, and accepted Jesus in my heart. I was indwelled with God’s Spirit and reconciled with God the Father. From that day on I knew that God was my companion and that he had a purpose for my life. Most importantly, I understood that I was loved by my Creator.

I believe that everyone should live with a sense of spiritual urgency and be thinking about eternal life as I was. Young people tend to think that they we will live forever and that there is no rush to ponder spiritual things. They’re full of hope and often carefree, but life can pass so quickly. I had a classmate who committed suicide during his second year of college. Another high school classmate I knew, died of meningitis during her first year of college. What a tragic time for their families. They left family and friends at such a young age. I have friends that have lost their kids in car accidents during these years too. I don’t want to scare anyone, but life can pass so quickly.

2. Who will I surround myself with?

Another important aspect of college is dorm life. Housing all those students in one big dorm can lead to lots of relationship building, but it can also cause conflict. Remember, you are who you hang out with. If you hang with the wrong crowd, you run the risk of not accomplishing your goals so choose your friends wisely. College can be a spiritually rich time, as was my experience, but many students use the college years to party and live decadently. You may see college as a chance to spread your wings and get a real taste for the wild life. Your parents are gone and everyone else is partying, but wild living has more to do with bondage than freedom.

Consider who you surround yourself with and who you date. Make the right choices when you think about dating during this season of your life. Romantic relationships can be devastating if they are based merely on sexuality with no thought of commitment. I recommend that single people should be prayerful about who they date and treat their partner with all the respect they deserve.

3. How will I keep my faith?

The college years are seen by many people as the best years of their lives. College can also be a time that involves more clearly defining long held values and beliefs. To me, obedience follows faith decisions. How do I keep my faith? In a word, obedience. Put succinctly, obedience means loving God, studying the Bible, and listening to God's voice.

Jesus stated it this way, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”John 14:23 

Don’t forget God wants you to have an exciting life. His rules are there to protect you and give you an abundant life. Don’t worry about your future. God has great plans for you. I am not saying that college will be easy. You’re going to have to study hard to achieve your career goals, but it is much easier if you let God help you with the decisions along the way. My prayer for every college student is that they will make a heartfelt commitment to Christ while in college.