Each year a new round of freshmen disembark on the next big journey of their lives—college. I have seen teenagers enter the hallowed halls of higher education, very much children, and exit very much young women and men. As a former church youth worker, each year sixth and ninth graders entered the middle and high school groups, while we bid farewell to graduating seniors, who were now college freshmen. Even though I’m not currently involved in youth ministry, I still mingle with former students from time to time—undergraduate and graduate degrees have been earned, marriages have happened, and babies have been born. Still, yet again, the freshmen are starting their first days of the fall semester in that strange new world known as college.
This year, my best friend Sarah and I have been helping a special young lady prepare for her future in fine arts at a college in Philadelphia. Since my college days, I don’t think I’ve ever been so hands on in prepping a kid for what’s to come. We’ve been on countless shopping trips to buy school supplies, clothing, personal items, storage bins, and who knows what else? Sarah and I took her to Philly to take her college placement test and assisted her in finding a place to live since on-campus housing was all filled. Studying her finances, we thought of ways she could practically spend the money she’s saved from working as a cashier for three years. And let me tell you, it’s been exhausting!
It’s not just running from this sale to that sale or trying to find Twin XL bedding that she likes, it’s the worry. Am I advising her the right way? Is this really a good choice? Should she really live in this apartment? Will she need more highlighters? Will she be safe? Why didn’t she choose a closer school? Who will be her friends? What does she think about God and spirituality and all that stuff? Where is the closest church? Will she miss me as much as I’m going to miss her? And finally, will she be OK?
Because I want her to be OK. I want her to have an amazing college experience in which she will discover parts of herself that she never knew existed. I want her to come into her own, find her passions, and drink deeply of life. I want her to make lifelong friends, go on a couple crazy road trips, and come through unscathed by the harshness of life. Most of all, I want her to know God. When a college boy breaks her heart, I want her to know that God is closer than she can imagine. As exams and papers pile up, I want her to know that she can find rest in Him alone. In her religion and philosophy classes, I want her to hold fast to her beliefs and allow them to become solidified. I want her to know God the way I knew Him in college.
I can’t control all that. I can merely prepare her for what lies ahead with pens and notebooks and a stapler. I can have a few long talks when she wants to listen. I can hug her tightly and let her know that she can always come home. And I can get down on my knees and pray and trust God that she will be OK