The Four Week Window
I watched a gang of incoming freshmen wandering campus sporting T-shirts, caps and backpacks with school logos and colors. They were doing the summer orientation thing. Freshman insecurity often makes us do two things. We posture being cool, with it and on top of things to our peers. And we gape at everything like we’ve stepped into Oz. We posture that we’re the Munchkins (We’ve got this place down.) and hope not too many notice that we feel like feel like Toto (This place could get us down.). By now the checks and online bank payments have cleared the bank and milk crates of stuff sit in the corner of suite rooms. In fact, we do belong to this place now. And now we get to figure out what daily life will look like in this place many of us will call home by Thanksgiving and/or Christmas break (This will drive a stake through the hearts of some parents.). See the picture at the right? This is Penn State University but it could be a lot of places. What’s going on? A “Ramen Noodles for Greater World Karma” rally? Free day old bread give away at Jimmy John’s? No, this is club day. Called Involvement Day, Bronco Bash, Welcome Expo – it’s a day when every group makes it’s pitch for new people and what groups they are! Yes, there’s French Club. But also we might see something like “The Harpoon Catchers Society”, “A Capella Ping Pong”, “Vegans for the Re-election of Millard Fillmore”, or the “Zombie Quilt Guild”. I’m not stretching much here. And there’s free stuff! Food (cookies, burgers, dogs), cup cozies, pads and pens, fridge magnets, African animals of all shapes and sizes and carnivorous plants – it’s all there. See the picture just below ? How surprised that guy will be to find an armadillo in that free backpack! Just kidding!
But mixed in with those other groups will be a bunch of Christian campus ministries. Their leaders have been busting their tails for this moment like the Blue Man Group on steroids. Along with showing presence with all the other student groups, they all know they fight a running battle against the four-week window. What’s that? Well, first of all, the four-week window is not how long semi done Ramen noodles can lay in a suite bathroom sink before they grow green fuzz long enough to put cornrows in. It’s not how long into the semester before the dorm cleaning crew runs screaming from the building and enters therapy at the university health center. The four-week window describes the idea that by the time students returning to campus have been there about a month, they will have settled on their personal involvements and time investments outside of class. New friendships will be jelling. Christian groups all want to be in on the ground floor of that – rightly so. And the ones who can really help this effort to reach new students are the returning students. You are the pros from Dover! (old movie remix – M*A*S*H) You know the ropes and remember how it was coming in. Most important, you know how much Jesus Christ changed your life that first year and what those friend have come to mean. So sign up, get out there asking interesting survey questions, shake hands and hand out free parrots.
And while we’re thinking about what will capture our time and who we will hang with, let’s not let the Atomic Monopoly Fellowship (although they’re great people) absorb all our discretionary time. Ditto for Facebook and gaming. Christians returning to campus already know about the Christian groups at their place. They are not hard to find. A quick look at the Blogroll on this blog will show many of them if we need help. Meanwhile some good advice from some old dogs like me. First, A.E. Housman –
“If you knew that there was One greater than yourself, Who knows you better than you can know yourself, and loves you better than you can love yourself, Who can make you all you ought to be, steadier than your squalid nature, able to save you from squandering your glorious life, Who searches you beyond the standards of earth…One Who gathered into Himself all great and good things and causes, blending into His beauty all the enduring color of life, Who could turn your dreams into visions, and make real the things you hoped were true, and if that One had ever done one unmistakable thing to prove, even at the price of blood – His own blood – that you could come to Him, and having failed, come again. Would you not fall at His feet with the treasure of your years, your powers, service and love? And is there not one such (Jesus), and does He not call you?
Next, Philips Brooks –
“The great hunger everywhere is for life. All things are reaching up towards it. All living things are craving an increase of it. Into this world comes Christ and announces Himself as that world’s Savior and satisfier, in virtue first of his bestowal of vitality…’I come to you here that you may live, that you may have life, and that you may have it more abundantly.’ So speaks Christ to the student. And with great trust and great hope and happy soberness (read intensity)…believing truth, rejoicing in duty, the student goes forward into ever-deepening life. Of such life, and of brave, earnest students entering into its fullness, may this new year…be full.”
And lastly, Henry Venn’s advice to sending his son, John, off to Oxford in 1777.
“Rise early. Shun idleness. Read the Bible with prayer. Take care that your bed be thoroughly dry and lay for the first night in your waistcoat, breeches and stockings. Don’t let spiritual immaturity make you arrogant or excessive. Be chaste, sober and humble. Keep a diary. Study standing up. And every other morning attend your mouth and clean it well with snuff, which I find of great service to my teeth.”
Doesn’t that just say it all? Could I possibly add anything to that?
If you think this might encourage college students or someone who loves them, then share, subscribe, Twitter and all that social media stuff. If this rings your bell, you might want to consider Geezer 1, the Facebook clubhouse forgeezeronthequad.com. It’s a funky mix and I mean that in the best possible. Adding your funk to the pile would only make us better. I also am open to any questions you have about the Christian faith and living it. Just shoot it to me at email@example.com. No names required but I do reserve the right to ask clarifying questions to dignify your question with a decent answer.
Please return your seat to the upright position and give your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you exit to the rear. See you next post at geezeronthequad.com