Dear Class of 2016, Top of the food chain, Seniors, Future Fish, College Hopefuls,
Graduation season is almost here, which means shopping for nice clothes, planning parties, baccalaureate, incessant college questions from relatives that you barely know, and of course, the graduation ceremony. At this point in the year, you are probably doing next to nothing in your classes, just sitting around and waiting for graduation. It’s a really big, exciting deal. But at the same time, I know that a lot of you are probably scared about what the future holds, because I was in that place too. I wanted to share a few things with you that I wish I knew before I started college. I know there are a lot of posts like this out there, and I by no means intend to waste your time. I hope that these are things that you haven’t heard from anyone else before, and that they provide a new perspective on what’s coming up.
1. Opinions are LOUD.
When you put a lot of young adults in one place at the same time, odds are some of them are going to butt heads. In our political climate, and especially with the presidential election coming up, people are very quick to share their opinions with you, and they are equally as quick to tell you that yours is wrong. The same is true for differing religious, cultural, and academic opinions. It seems that almost everywhere you turn, there is an argument that you could jump into. At times, this can be extremely harsh, and you find yourself wondering if your opinions are even worth talking about if they will just be shot down. Which leads me to my next point…
2. Sometimes the best thing to be is quiet.
Arguments do us no good in the end. James 4 warns against the dangers of arguments and tells us that God affords us more grace. If you proclaim to be a Christian, I don’t believe that you show the love of God by arguing with people. Now, there is a difference between calmly explaining or defending an opinion and blatantly arguing about it with another person. If a conversation escalates to the point of argument, responding in humility is the best way to handle the situation. Humility and quietness speaks a lot louder than a childish argument.
However, quietness extends beyond the argument application. The past two semesters, I have had the privilege of being poured into by several different ministries on and off campus, and one thing that is very often discussed is being still before the Lord. I have always been taught that having a daily time of prayer and reading in the word is the best way to get to know God, but I never heard about the aspect of being still before the creator. Stillness is a beautiful way to soak in the words of scripture and to allow God to speak to you and respond to your prayers. For introverts like me, worshiping God through your stillness is easy, but for others it may come as more of a challenge. Stillness and quietness are a beautiful way to enjoy the presence of God, and people will recognize and appreciate a spirit of quietness amongst all the noise.
3. There’s a difference between knowing that God is love and making love your god.
1 John 4:8 describes one of the most essential aspects of God’s character: love. Indeed, love is what sets our God apart from any other god out there. He is a father to the orphans and the bride of the Church. During my senior year, I found it extremely easy to know and cherish the fact that our God is a loving God, but to ignore all the other aspects of God’s character that make up who He is. It was almost effortless to find ways to be thankful for His love when I was still at home surrounded by all my friends and family who I had known my whole life. In college, I’ve struggled to find close friends, but this struggle has taught me so much more about the attributes of God. Just look through Psalm 13 to see many of His different aspects: He is watchful, a counselor, a protector, an opener of eyes and hearts, He is gracious, and most importantly a Savior. Despite David’s cries of desperation in the first two verses, God is still all of these wonderful things for us, and something about Him is worth it. Unfortunately, life will not always feel like sunshine and rainbows, but when it doesn’t know that God is still love, He is just taking an opportunity to show the other parts of His character.
4. Scripture memory should be more of a priority.
I haven’t memorized scripture since I was in AWANA during elementary school, and I only really remember a handful of them. The further I get into college, the more stressful situations I encounter, and the more important it becomes to have a verse readily accessible for encouragement. Even just focusing on one verse for a whole week is helpful. The point is, having a verse in mind during a stressful day makes it much easier to have an eternal perspective on the outcome.
5. College is kind of a weird place with no adults.
The only adults that I encounter at college are my professors and a handful of people at my church who I barely talk to. It actually took me a while to figure out that that was one of the things that felt weird about college. Even though I knew that I would be living without any adult supervision, I didn’t realize that I would kind of never have any interaction with adults unless I went looking for it. It has been hard going from a hometown where I had several great mom figures in my life to having none at all. Recently, I’ve been encouraged to find someone to mentor me, and I am in the process of doing so. Sometimes you just need an adultier adult than yourself. Because adulting is hard.
6. Plans change a whole lot faster than you think they will, and that’s okay.
I came into college as a declared double major in theater and psychology. In just one semester, I decided that it would be best to drop theater to a minor and pick up a minor in classical studies, and I have also changed my prospective plans for graduate school. I was not expecting any of this to change, but God has a fantastic way of working out His plan for your life and showing you the direction that He wants you to go. If this happens to you, don’t panic. I have so many friends who are in the same boat as me, making edits to their original plans, or even changing majors altogether. You will not be alone in your decision to change something. And, in fact, I believe that listening to God’s plans instead of your own is a cause for celebration of the great things He is doing in your life, and the great ways He will use you.
7. It’s more than one choice.
During my senior year, I heard a lot of people say that following Christ is a choice. Yes, this is true; you have to choose to make your faith your own, because when adults aren’t there to keep you accountable, you have to find your own motivation to stay in the word and to find a church community. What I didn’t hear as often is that making that choice is a continual process that you have to make every single day. You also have to choose to keep an eternal perspective and to find joy in the Lord every day. Just as the Christian faith has more than one facet, your faith involves multiple decisions. In college, if you find the right routine, it may be easy to attend church or those ministry events that you go to every week, but it is another thing entirely to choose to be joyful in Christ no matter what your circumstances are outside of those specific settings. This weekend was Sigma Phi Lambda’s All Chapter Retreat and we were studying through Habakkuk 3:17-19, which talks about choosing joy in the Lord even through hardships that occur day after day. Verse 18 begins with the word “yet,” and it is the pivotal point in the passage where we have to make a choice. Learning how to say “yet” is hard, but if you make it a daily practice, it will get easier to live in the joy that the Lord gives us.
8. People in Fayetteville call it cheese dip instead of queso.
If I had known this before I applied for school, I wouldn’t be living here now. Just kidding, I love Fay. But in all seriousness……it’s queso.
9. I have come to terms with the fact that I will never know the perfect amount of time to cook my microwave popcorn so that it doesn’t burn.
Enjoy the last few moments of your senior year. It may seem like a drag now, but I promise you it goes faster than you think. Cherish the moments that you have with your high school friends, because honestly this will be the last time that you see most of them. I’m proud of you and there are great things waiting for you at your respective colleges!