Putting God First in College
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
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.
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
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
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.