Years ago, when I was a high school junior just beginning my search for colleges, I decided that I wouldn't even look at Christian colleges. I had been in Christian schools since I was in first grade and wanted something different.
I guess I wanted to prove myself that I could still be a Christian outside of the "bubble" that I was in. Many of the people who went to my school also went to my church, and many people who went to my church also went to the seminary that my father taught at. It was very insular and I often felt like I was struggling for fresh air. I was desperate to be in a different environment and almost jealous of the kids in my youth group who went to public school.
They seemed cultured.
Ironically, I ended up going to a Christian college and am just a month and a half shy of graduating. And I'm glad I never went to a secular school.
This article is not intended to bash non-religious institutions. Indeed, those schools have much to offer: diverse majors, a much larger selection of clubs and organizations, less student debt, and arguably more open minds. I would probably find more people who think the same way I do if I had gone to a state school or a secular institution (which, again, is ironic).
But if I had not gone to Trinity and stayed behind in St. Louis when my parents moved, I would be a very different person.
I truly do not think my faith would be at the level it is now. I would still have it, of course, but I would not have the same understanding of theology or knowledge of both the Evangelical Free Church and the Presbyterian Church in America. These two denominations play an important role in my life, one more recently and one I grew up in.
I would have been far more prone to experimentation. To be quite honest, I have an addictive personality. I could have easily fallen into a so-called wrong crowd and become caught up in drinking and maybe even drugs. It would have been somewhat easy to hide it from my parents, being three hundred miles away from them. They would have never needed to know. It disturbs me to think about being that person, and also how easily it could have happened. Even now, when I do drink (within the expectations that Trinity upholds) I never drink enough to get drunk. I hope I never know what my threshold is.
The many close friends that Trinity gave me is something I've also considered. I would have certainly made good friends at other schools—close friends, even. But it would not be the same as at Trinity. The people I've met here push me to be not only a better person spiritually but also relationally. I have made lifelong friends who walk with me in the faith as well as alongside me in the earthly struggles.
I am thankful for the many biblical courses that Trinity prescribes, even if they seem like a hassle at the time. Among those requirements are Old Testament; New Testament; Foundations of Christian Thinking and Learning, and Biblical Interpretation. I grumbled about having to take the Old and New testament classes since I sat through twelve years of Bible instruction as a kid, but I learned there is always more to know about the Bible.
I learned a lot more about the EFCA in my foundations course, as it was not the denomination I grew up in. It helped me to understand the way that Trinity thought and why it did the things it did as an institution. Biblical Interpretation helped me to put verses in context, and reinforced existing interpretative skills I had learned in high school. I have also received biblical reinforcement in classes outside of religious instruction, and it helps me to apply theory to real-life situations.
Finally, I am thankful for having attended a Christian college because God used my time here to draw me closer to Him. God uses different events to draw people near to Him, and Trinity was how the Lord drew me to Him.