Yo, Freshmen (or Freshers)!
College can be disorienting; that’s why they have orientation. There’s a lot of change. Unlike high school, very few of our classes are in the same building. Some may be a mile or so apart. The campus now provides the space where we are far more likely to be seriously maimed by getting hit by someone on a bike than any kind of vehicle. (Michigan State, I’m thinking about you.) The food isn’t like Mom’s so while it’s always a student thing to complain about the food, it’s hugely better than it used to be. I remember when our food service announced a complete upgrade of food service capped off by beginning to hand out forks. The campus went ballistic. They had Hawaiian Night where everybody got a coconut. They drilled holes in them and gave everyone a straw to drink the milk. Cool, but then what? Students on full scholarship went mad trying to figure out how to smash a coconut to retrieve the meat. (You wrap it in a towel first before smashing it on the sidewalk, dorm wall or the hood of the Dean’s car.) Maintenance spent a whole day shoveling and scraping up fragments from everywhere. We will use bathrooms probably not as clean as home even though the janitorial staff works hard (Thank them when you see them. How many of us would do this job?) . Never go there without flip-flops, especially on Sunday mornings. The whole getting started at college can be a bit overwhelming – like being face licked by a hippopotamus.
There’s just a lot that new student orientation doesn’t prepare us for. We took personality inventories and tests to help us find out both who we are and who we’ll be. And we will be someone different four years or so from now. And that brings me to this. Anytime I speak to students early in the term, as I will at MSU next week, I always say to freshmen right at the start, “You have no idea how much God loves you. He could not have you spend four concentrated years in a more fertile and rich place that this campus. He loves college students so much that He will use this place to light fires in you that will burn the rest of your life. It’s important that we ask for discernment to know when this happens so we feed these fires and do not snuff them out. What kinds of things will we see rise from the soil of our heart? Let me suggest at least five.
We will learn to see all the world and all its ventures as God’s proper concern. A guy name Abraham Kuyper said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” We were never meant to hoard what Jesus Christ does in us. His love knocks the walls out of our heart to see the world. We will see it in many ways. Check out the guest speakers in our Christian group, conferences, retreats, etc. Over four years we will see a vast array of people from different racial/ethnic persuasions, churches of every stripe and shape (some we never knew existed), countries and cultures outside our own, professions and callings from every walk of life imaginable, young and old, widely known and little known. While it’s difficult to head up a Brooklyn Mafia family or a Colombian drug cartel for Jesus, we can be lawyers, teachers, ride the back of garbage trucks or wage research war against pandemics for the Kingdom of God. I’ve seen people do all these. A parade of people and possibilities of how big Jesus’ Kingdom really will unfold every week over four years.
We will learn to enjoy chewing on truth. It’s mentally better than a good filet mignon (Tofu steak for my Vegan readers). People snarf down fish oil and do puzzles to keep the brain cells dancing. Want to do something really good for your mind? The Bible is God’s Word; take frequent bites and chew slowly. Don’t think we’ve heard it before just because we’ve heard it before. It’s alive. Memorize it. Think about it. Distance ourselves from anything, no matter how innocent or respectable, that dulls our appetite for it. Knead and press it into every corner and concern of life.
We will learn to carry some of the pain God carries in His heart for the brokenness of this world. Going old-school, we used to call this “having a burden”. In truth, it’s not a burden at all but a great honor. We can’t imagine what it’s like for God not only to see all the suffering and evil in the world but to swallow every crumb, feel the throb of every pain racked nerve and sense the extended ripple of consequence and injustice of every human being to His core; it would kill us. Through the Holy Spirit, He slides one long thorn into our heart. Our heart will begin to be seized by one or more things that break the heart of God. They may be general or quite specific. God just doesn’t have many people to share His heartaches with so to sense this happening means that the Lord pays us an intimate compliment and honor.
We will grow a faith that enjoys experience and emotion without needing to be propped up by either one. I like frosting. Don’t you? Bur what would we look like if all we ate was frosting? Some of us trace the highlights of our walk with God to times when we thought we could touch the face of God and our emotions ran high. I’ve had some of that. But God-given emotion can never be allowed to drive either in the Christian life or life in general. Thinking God to be present only when feelings hit boil lock us into being the mental equivalent of an emotionally arrested fourteen year old for the rest of our lives – a spiritual shipwreck. Love has high moments to be treasured, so enjoy them. The Bible says God will wipe away all tears in heaven; there must be a way of expressing deep joy I don’t know about. But love also runs deeper and more intimately than that.
We will grow an intimacy with Jesus Christ that is simply the greatest treasure a human being can know. Jesus Christ, risen in all His power, love, truth, holiness and beauty actually indwelling our being through the Holy Spirit. Intimacies that Moses, Elijah or David never knew. All the time whether we feel it or not. Jesus…the Pearl of Great Price, the One greater than any and all of His rewards, the magnificent and beautiful Satisfier of body, mind and soul.
Have a great four years; Somebody has plans for you…
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Please return your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you exit to the rear. See you next post at geezeronthequad.com.