ARMy College ExperienceThe college experience is a time to know God, to establish our faith, and to recognize that He is the greatest screenwriter of our lives.We need to understand the importance of relying on God—to trust that He has taken care of our worries while we are in college. And our faith is expressed in how we live a Christian lifestyle while we are in school.
HOW I GOT INTO COLLEGE
The screenwriter of a movie makes certain that the hero meets the right people, does and says the right things, and is always in the right places. That is the only way for the hero to come out triumphant against all odds.
During these three years in college, I’ve come to appreciate God more as I see His guidance from the big events in life to even the smallest ones. I really believe that God can be the perfect screenwriter of our time in college if we willing to let Him lead.
The Right Place
I applied to three schools as a senior in high school: two were out-of-state and the third was the University of Texas (UT), which is a three-and-a-half hour drive away from home. I received all the documents from the other two schools but was lacking one document from UT.
Because my mom encouraged me to pray for God’s will in this matter, a group of us fasted and prayed for God to clearly show me which school I should attend. Even though I preferred the other two schools, we prayed that if it were God’s will for me to go to UT, then I would receive their financial package notification letter on a certain Monday.
That Monday finally came, and I stood by the window at two o’clock in the afternoon, when the mailman usually came. I waited until two-thirty—no mailman. Not willing to give up yet, I stood there until three, four, then eventually five o’clock—still no sign of the mailman.
Feeling disappointed and unanswered, I went back to my room to do homework. At six, my mom knocked on my door and held out a package—it was the notification letter from UT.
Initially, the feeling was bittersweet, because UT was not my first choice of school. However, awe and then peace quickly took over and settled in my heart. I knew that God heard and answered our prayers. I was assured of where God wanted me to go, and knowing that was the best feeling in the world.
There has not been a day that I regretted going to UT. God’s will never lead you where His grace cannot keep you. I know that I am living in His blessings, because everything has been much better than what my abilities could ever have achieved. I really thank God.
The Right Time
After two morning classes on a typical Monday at 10:10 a.m., I sat in my building doing homework. I must’ve had massive brain failure because, for the life of me, I could not do a single problem on that homework.
At 11:10 a.m., after an hour of frustration, I shut my book and went upstairs to the computer lab to check email until my next class at noon. Most were junk mail, so I didn’t bother reading them. The clock read 11:15 a.m. and only five minutes had passed. I had nothing better to do so I went back to look at my emails—something that I have never done before.
An email with the subject “RSVP IMMEDIATELY!?caught my attention. It said that I had failed to reply to an earlier email concerning a scholarship that I had won and that I was required at a luncheon at 11:30 a.m. that day! I looked at the clock; it was 11:20 a.m. I closed all the windows, logged off, and ran downstairs.
Suddenly I remembered that I had homework due for my class at noon. Luckily, I saw my friend standing as if she were waiting for me! I mumbled a hasty, “I got a scholarship. I need to go. Can you turn my homework in for me? Thanks!?and ran off.
Sitting in the luncheon grossly underdressed in my t-shirt and jeans compared to others in business casual, I felt awestruck. Had I stayed downstairs doing my homework, had I decided to surf the web instead of rechecking my email, or had I ignored that email again, I would not have made it to the luncheon.
There was no doubt in my mind that every minute was perfectly timed by God. It was better than the movies.
NOW THAT I’M HERE, WHAT HAVE I LEARNED?
Getting into college is one thing, but what we do in it is what matters. I’ve heard people saying that the college years are a time to find ourselves—a time to try new things and stretch our potential.
College indeed opens many doors of opportunities. However, the opportunities that come our way are not censored to be only Christian-friendly. We are suddenly immersed in freedom with the reins of life dropped into our two hands.
Unfortunately, with freedom come also the possibility of losing discipline and succumbing to the temptations that Satan devises to level our faith in God. We now have the ability to do whatever we want, stay up as late as we want, befriend whomever we want, go wherever we want, and the list goes on.
If we are not careful, we may surprise ourselves by doing things or going to places we would have shunned without flinching back when we were more spiritually sound. Slowly, whether we mindfully condone it or not, we may lose God.
The truth is, we were not meant to tear ourselves in half while we strive to balance between our academics and our spirituality. On the contrary, the spirit within us serves as a backbone to support our physical lives so that we can achieve our goals and aspirations with God as an active participant.
Faith and school are not two opposing forces in a ceaseless game of tug-of-war. Together, they actually work beautifully to fabricate the quilt of a successful life as a college student and spiritual soldier that ultimately glorifies God.
Fix Our Focus
Keeping focus on God does not come by nature. It requires an active effort, because we are predisposed to look at what is in our immediate line of vision. Schoolwork, friends, TV, and the Internet—thought neutral—may work together to drive our focus off-track.
Spiritually, we are actually really fragile and much weaker than we think. Paul warns, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall?(1 Cor 10:12). Months of spiritual awareness may disappear simply after a hectic week of school. It is frustrating when the hard-won zeal from spiritual seminars evaporates so quickly with time.
Usually, we can feel when we begin to slip spiritually. Sometimes it starts innocently with watching a PG-rated movie or listening to a five-minute song. Other times it may start with our hesitation to say “no?or with satisfying our curiosities.
Regardless of what, our Bibles suddenly seem to bolt shut, refusing to open, and our legs become stiff, refusing to bend. The standard of the world is different, and at times contrary, to the standard of God. It is typically the small, subtle things that have the potential to snowball into a spiritual crisis.
To keep focus, it becomes imperative to put God in the center of a day and to touch back on His words for direction (Ps 119:105). Pastors may sound like a broken record when they remind us to read the Bible and pray.
The habit is indispensable in a successful Christian life because it keeps our steps in check; whenever we encounter a challenge, it reminds us to turn to God. We then would not chance to wander too far away from Him and then gradually lose Him completely.
We must be watchful and “resist [the devil], steadfast in the faith?(1 Pet 5:8, 9).
Be Spiritually Persistent
Ever tried to diet but couldn’t say “no?to a warm, moist, chocolate-chip cookie? Here is the breakthrough: if you are on a diet, then don’t browse the cookie aisle. This same principle also makes sense spiritually; by going out of our way to avoid eye contact with temptation, we will save ourselves from many broken determinations.
We cannot afford to let God go without a fight! Usually, our conscience will react when we are exposed to things that will be detrimental to our faith. It then becomes our choice whether we want to try to persist spiritually or mute that voice inside. Do whatever it takes to keep God as an active participant.
The strength of my day comes in the morning when I read the Bible while eating breakfast. I have heard others starting strong with a prayer before they take on the events of the day.
Try keeping a journal of the times when God has touched your heart or dedicate a time of the day for God. Go back and read what you wrote to remind yourself of God’s love. It is the small, habitual additions in the day that helps build our faiths and instill God’s voice inside our hearts.
It is impossible to detect when temptation will come, in what form, or how severe it will be. However, we know that while Satan is strong, God is stronger; and while “with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible?(Mt 19:26).
Two are Better than One
It is hard to succeed alone; there must be times when we have become too depleted in energy and too weak to help ourselves. This is when God sends us help.
Good friends in the Lord can hold our hands and lead us when we suffer spiritual blindness or revive us from a spiritual coma. Attending spiritual seminars, joining Bible study groups, and praying with our family are avenues that take us closer to God.
For me, my mom is whom I turn to for spiritual guidance and help with prayer. King Solomon keenly observed, “Two are better than one, for if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls?(Eccl 4:9,10).
Even when friends can’t be there, God is always there to pull us through, because He desires us to “make straight paths for [our] feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed?(Heb 12:13). Turning to God is not an abstract concept because God exists and He hears our prayers.
My mom tells me, “You will always find the time for the things that are important to you.?The reason is simple: things that are important become a natural part of life and no longer compete for your time. Drawing closer to God and acknowledging His presence help keep our steps in spiritual rhythm (Heb 10:22, 23; Prov 3:6).
Faith that lasts is faith that slowly becomes indistinguishable from life.
Many of my college friends say, “Christians talk the talk, but they never walk the walk. They are just a bunch of hypocrites.?What they say reminds us that we are God’s walking advertisements, and people are looking at us as His reflection.
Through Our Conduct
Paul exhorts, “Let your conduct be worthy of the gospel?(Phil 1:27) and “seek those things which are above ?not on things on the earth?(Col 3:1, 2).
What we do can persuade or dissuade our friends from getting to know God better. Paul says, “The sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus?(Phm 6).
In a mad rush to finish a project, one of my classmates commented, “You always seem so calm!?People can see the difference because God is inside us, and we can use that as an opportunity to tell them more about Him.
Through Our Life
Another time during lunch, two of my friends were taking turns telling me all the stupid things that the other did while she was drunk the night before. Out of curiosity I asked them, “Why do you guys get drunk then??They giggled, “So we can forget all the stress from school and lose ourselves!?If the point of life is to be numbed from consciousness and reality, then why bother living?
Life is meant to be lived. Jesus lived a beautiful life of love for us, and we, too, can live a beautiful life glorifying Him. The Bible says that not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from God’s will and that we are of more value than many sparrows (Mt 10:29, 31).
Each of us made it to this world despite the odds against us; God definitely has a special purpose for each of us here on earth.
These years in college sitting through classes after classes, I learned many things that will earn me a degree. However, the most important thing I learned is that I must to hold onto God and never let Him go.
God gives many priceless gifts to hearts that seek for Him and walk in Him (Heb 11:6). In good times, I experienced the quiet strength that only God can give. His peace makes a world of difference, because without it, I feel like I am doing everything alone (Phil 4:7; Col 3:15).
We need to make God an active participant and let Him be the perfect scriptwriter of our lives.