Get ready for another great Junior Author! I met Kayla the first year we did ReDream. I was there as a guest speaker and she was there as a student and I was speaking on some of her favorite verses, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. We’ve stayed connected over the last few years and I asked her to write an article about one of the most critical stages in life. Kayla is currently a 20 year old barista who uses every cup of coffee to get through college. She loves challenging herself with long hikes, is an avid instagrammer, and loves rapping to Lecrae in her car. Overall, she lives everyday striving to do small things with great love.
This Experience Must Come
Thoughts from a college student to college students, and no concerned parents.
First, I need to address one simple fact that stands in front of us as 90’s kids. As of today, three out of every five Americans between the ages of 18-29 leave the church after 15. And most of us would probably not be surprised that this is so.
If your relationship with Jesus survived through your teen years because of your parents, youth groups, and Bible camps, it’s probable that most of you were facing this reality after you graduated high school. If you experienced post high school living like me, you felt uprooted from teen-hood. You graduated from your high school youth groups and if you were lucky, you stepped up into a college group. But even then, you had figured out that only a couple close friendships even made it past this point. If you didn’t have college groups, you would join main services at your home church or a couple churches. Every Sunday, you needed to mentally fast forward in order to keep up with the sermons about popular Christian topics such as marriage and parenting. For college students today, there is just such a big gap that falls into our laps that it’s hard to make use out of that extra awkward time that we have. So what do we do with it? What does Christ ask of us as we embark into the next couple years filled with some of the biggest choices we will ever make?
When I graduated out of high school, I was lucky to have a solid Christian community that was committed to me, and a ministry of plugging back into my last youth group. I didn’t have a college group, but I believe I was blessed with so much better. As I was focusing on my academic opportunity in college, I would say that my ministry and spiritual growth mattered to me even more. I blasted through two years loving young women whose current teen phases were literally yesterdays from my own. I thrived off of the challenging tasks I was given, and made long strides in my leadership ability because I knew that if I messed up, they were my family and their love for me would never change.
God gives us these first years to move forward from the relationships that had previously molded us into who we are, in order for us to be stretched in trusting in Him.
On the other hand, my education choices during that time were very sporadic. My first year out of high school, I dived straight into university striving to do and be all that I wanted. But trying to balance all of my pursuits, I learned quickly that I couldn’t impress God with my tightly packed agenda. Because I had loved pouring into ministry so much, I faced burn out after my first semester. Because I believed that God wanted me to stay where He had me, I decided to transfer into community college while I was serving in high school ministry. The next year and a half I could never regret, but God eventually called me out of that ministry to focus on how he would equip me academically.
I believe that God doesn’t call His children to perfect, lifelong careers. I didn’t start off my first couple years after high school graduation with a handful of scholarships, impressive high school transcripts, and a four-year plan that was guaranteed to give me a job. But I do believe that God gives us these first years to move forward from the relationships that had previously molded us into who we are, in order for us to be stretched in trusting in Him with where He wants us to be as His young, equipped, and enthusiastic servant leaders to change the world.
If you have ever stumbled upon in your readings of the Bible a section of it called the Old Testament, despite your obsession into the New Testament (this happens to the best of us), you will know a little bit about a man named Elijah and his Robin, his Samwise the Brave, his Tonto (who we ALL know from now on to be Johnny Depp), a man named Elisha. As Elisha and his close mentor Elijah (who he even called Father) were traveling through Israel, everyone who was anybody knew for some unknown reason that Elijah was going to be taken up to heaven in a whirlwind at any day (try writing that on today’s tabloids!). So Elisha, being his devoted right hand man, decided that he wasn’t going to let Elijah out of his sight, and was bent towards seeing this great mysterious departure take place. While they were traveling together, fire came down as they were talking and separated the two men, grabbing up Elijah into a whirlwind and into heaven’s gates. Elisha, as you can guess, was scared and confused and depressed. Tearing his own clothes and taking some of Elijah’s that were conveniently left by the whirlwind (yikes!), Elisha heads over to the bank of Jordan and strikes the water, saying, “Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” The Lord answered in parting the waters, showing God’s promise that Elisha would succeed Elijah as the Lord’s mouthpiece for Israel.
If you truly want to know whether or not God is the God your faith believes Him to be, then you must trust in God’s direction even when it means You have to walk through it alone.
I think that as college students, we can really relate to what Elisha had to go through. We all have to experience at least one point in our lives when the people we look up to have to leave us. God does not intend for these leaders in our lives to stay. This doesn’t mean that we are not worth pursuing anymore or that we have been left behind. God is teaching us how to do life with Him carrying with us the knowledge and experiences from the time we had with our “Elijahs.” Once God takes these people who have aided in guiding us through particular points in life, we have to press forward facing certain challenges alone, but trusting in God’s great promise that He will walk us through it. College is especially hard when you are transitioning through academic changes and you battle stages of loneliness and solitude, but there is no use in saying that you cannot go through it—the experience is here, and you must go. If you truly want to know whether or not God is the God your faith believes Him to be, then you must trust in God’s direction even when it means you have to walk through it alone.
We must make a determination to trust in God in becoming His next mouthpieces for the world, not even looking for “Elijah” anymore. We must allow this truth to sink in that God does not want us to be who we were before. That was never His plan. He yearns for us always to be walking in the light of who we are in Him with no looking back. The past is instilled into the present wonder of fellowship and oneness with God, listening to His voice and allowing Him to lead through us. Don’t allow yourself to choose a college life that fits your personal preference and that is easy for you to control. God calls us in college to be in constant relationship with Him, directed by His plans for us as we seek His will for our lives daily.