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 (Manna 62: The Miracles of Jesus)
Putting God First in College
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Putting God First in College

Judith Yu—San Diego, California, USA

After laboring for the first half of my senior year in high school on seemingly endless college applications while juggling several Advanced Placement and college classes and then waiting anxiously for acceptance letters to arrive in the mailbox, I was determined to choose the right college for the sake of my future.

This was the most important decision that I had faced in all seventeen years of my life. I was expected to make my college decision by May 1, 2009.

THE BIG DECISION

The day before my decision deadline, I faced a dilemma. I had narrowed my choices down to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) or the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). After I got home from school, I spent the entire afternoon lying in bed, debating between the two.

UCLA seemed like the more logical choice because it was prestigious and top-notch in terms of sciences, and I was planning to major in biochemistry in preparation for medical school. Furthermore, my friends and family were all in support of me choosing this university. I knew that going to UCLA would enable me to better prepare for graduate school as well as my future career.

However, after visiting the San Diego House of Prayer that spring when called in for an interview at the university, I felt more inclined to go to UCSD. Growing up in Baldwin ParkChurch, I never had the chance to participate much in holy work. Perhaps it was because the congregation was large and there were so many people available to help, or perhaps there were other reasons. Either way, I was not able to serve God as much as I wanted to.

Seeing that the San Diego House of Prayer had such a small congregation and a deficit of workers, I knew that I would be able to find some kind of holy work, however small, to do there. If I went to UCLA, I would continue to attend my childhood church, where I would not have as much opportunity to serve.

After pondering and praying about it for hours, I still couldn’t come up with an answer.

So I decided that I would simply flip a coin. If it landed heads up, I would go to UCLA. If it landed tails up, I would go to UCSD. I flipped. When I looked, the coin had landed on top of my blanket, wedged in a crease. It was neither heads nor tails. I was back to square one.

Finally, there was a knock on my door, and my dad came in. He sat down at the edge of my bed and told me just what I needed to hear. He said to me, “Make the choice you think God wants you to make, and just do what you think is right. Life always continues on, despite the choices people make.”

I began to realize that, no matter what choices we make, God’s love for us never disappears. As long as our decisions reflect our own love for God, He will surely provide. Since I knew which choice I would have to make in order to better serve God, I submitted my intent to register to UCSD with a peaceful heart.

UNEXPECTED BLESSINGS

That June, I graduated from high school, and, after an exciting summer vacation abroad, I braced myself for the transition from high school to college. Truthfully, I was slightly nervous and intimidated because I had no idea what to expect—who my roommates would be, what they would be like, how I would plan my class schedule, what independence would really be like. There was so much that I had yet to experience.

Immediately after arriving at San Diego, however, everything just seemed to fall in place, and I knew that I had made the right choice coming to this school. It was God’s abundant blessing that I was able to evade the inevitable loneliness of college life, get involved with holy work, and also keep up with my academics.

A Family in Christ

The first blessing that God gave to me was the warmth of a family in Christ. Even though I was away from home and on my own for the first time, I never really had the chance to feel lonely.

By the first week, I had already been invited by the brothers and sisters at the prayer house to a welcome dinner for all the new students. We sat around the dinner table and shared a delicious meal together. I felt so at home.

Throughout the rest of the quarter, I continued to fellowship with all the brothers and sisters. Sometimes we would go down to the beach, sometimes we would go out for dinner and dessert, sometimes we would cook together, and, every other Tuesday, we had campus fellowship.

Despite having roommates and suitemates who partied quite often, I never felt tempted to join them because I had my friends from church to spend time with. I thank God that He gave me such a caring family in San Diego.

Participating in Holy Work

The second blessing that God gave me was the blessing of holy work. As I had imagined, I finally had the opportunity to participate in church work. However, the opportunity that presented itself was one that I had been both expecting and dreading.

San Diego House of Prayer lacked pianists. Most people who know I was raised in a musical family expect me to be able to play the piano for church, but this has never been the case. I have always had trouble sight-reading, and, whenever people sing along while I play, even if it is just a few people that I am very familiar with, I get extremely nervous and stop playing almost immediately.

Even if I am not sight-reading music for the first time and have practiced a hymn over and over again, I still panic when others sing along. The only time I am able to play smoothly is when I am alone. Nevertheless, I practiced whenever I had the chance during lunch on Sabbaths or after service on Friday nights, all the while never having the confidence that I would ever be able to actually play for hymn singing.

Toward the end of the quarter, I was finally asked to play during a Friday night service. Reflexively, I wanted to say no, but then I reminded myself that this was the reason I came to San Diego in the first place. I couldn’t let my lack of confidence get in the way of service for God. I made up my mind and replied, “I will try my best.”

Before playing, I said a silent prayer, and somehow everything turned out just fine. I didn’t embarrass myself like I thought I would. Granted, my playing was far from perfect, but I successfully played for hymn singing that night. Without God’s guidance, I could never have overcome my fear. He enabled me to serve Him, and I was so grateful.

Academics

The final blessing that God bestowed on me was in academics. Since the start of the quarter, I had been struggling with chemistry. Even though I read the textbook meticulously and thoroughly, I felt like I would never understand it and could never do more than a problem or two out of the ten-problem assignments.

In the academic quarter system, the weeks pass by swiftly, and, before I knew it, it was time for final exams. I became increasingly stressed as finals approached, and it didn’t help that all three of my finals were on the exact same day. I would have to sit through nine straight hours of examinations from 8:30 in the morning to 6:00 at night.

The night before my finals, I had given up studying for chemistry. I was in despair. Would I already have to give up on my plans for medical school?

While I prayed before going to bed, I simply told God that I had tried my best and that I would put everything in His hands. I also told Him that I didn’t want to disappoint my parents or make them worry.

They had done so much for me to get me to where I was, supporting all of my decisions, pushing me to do several extracurricular activities, staying up late with me on the nights that I had particularly large amounts of work to do, not to mention putting in a considerable amount of money and effort to ensure that I would succeed in the future. I wanted at the least to show them that I appreciated their efforts by doing well in school.

Thanks to the grace of God, everything turned out well. Despite having skipped an entire question on my chemistry final, which only had ten questions, my score was a sturdy thirty points above the class average. The other two finals that I took also ended up just as well.

GOD OPENED MY EYES

If I have learned anything besides academic knowledge after my first quarter in college, it would be that God truly blesses those who have the heart to serve Him. Furthermore, God will undoubtedly answer the prayers of those who have pure motivations.

I am so thankful that I made the decision to attend UCSD because God has opened my eyes and helped me to grow spiritually in such a short period of time. I realize that, as long as I put God first in my life, everything else will fall into place. All I have to do is seek earnestly for Him and trust in Him.

Although at times we all face decisions where we are tempted to rely on our own understanding and take the road that furthers our worldly pursuits, we need to realize that God is far more important than anything this world has to offer. If we can put God first in our lives, we can also be confident that God will bless us abundantly not only with material blessings but, more importantly, with spiritual blessings. We can therefore receive twice the blessings if we set our sights on God.

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