It's been a long time since I was in your shoes, but I'll never forget the anxieties and the worries I was feeling two days before I went to college. I wish someone had told me that college is a blast, and that's why every time I sense your fear, I try to remind you that you're about to have the time of your life. I wish when I had voiced my fears, the adults in my life had just told me that, instead of bombarding me with admonitions to get involved and to sit in the front and to talk to the professors. I know you know all that.
I've mentioned on the Odyssey before that my Impact counselor Mackenzie gave me wise and true words that strengthened my heart and gave me hope: through your first year of college, you will see how faithful God is. It was true for her, it was true for me, and it'll be true for you too, because our God is good and consistent even when we're not.
I won't spend this article trying to tell you how to get a 4.0, because I don't have a 4.0 so I wouldn't know. But what I do have is a college experience to look back on which is shining from every nook and cranny with the goodness and faithfulness of God. I wasn't the girl who never partied. I wasn't the girl who got a 4.0. I wasn't the girl who never did anything regrettable with guys. I wasn't the girl who never took a sip of alcohol. But I am the girl who spent my college years being pursued, changed, and sanctified by the unrelenting mercy and love of my Savior. Sarah, I pray that in four or five years you'll be able to say the same. If you do things you regret, may it only reveal to you His strength in your weakness. The goal is not primarily to make good grades or to land an internship or to get a career at the end, though I think you'll have no trouble doing all those things, but to bring glory to God.
Desire His will above all else.
Our college years set the stage for the rest of our lives. In the next 4 or 5 years, you'll make decisions that will affect you for the rest of your life. This should not be viewed as stressful, but as an exciting opportunity for God to work in your life. You know that you were created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, so don't look at your major as a rigid straitjacket that will dictate what you have to do until you're 65, but as an opportunity to sharpen the skills you already have in order to best accomplish His will for your life.
You remember my ex (that you never liked) and how I thought I would marry him. Towards the end of that relationship I realized I needed to choose whether I wanted God's will or my own. I was well aware that the two were different, and by some miracle of Divine grace, I was enabled to release the situation to God. Every iota of the peace and joy I am living today is a result of God's love in taking away that relationship. If you're ever in a similar situation, don't be afraid to choose God's will over your own. He is good, good, good, good, good. We are bad, bad, bad, bad, bad. Only bad things come from following your flesh, and only good things come from obedience to God.
Trust in the Lord.
If you were unaware, it's my unfortunate job to tell you that college will probably bring a certain number of stressful situations. I couldn't even begin to count the things that have gone wrong for me in college. My first semester, I had a midterm GPA below 2.0. My second year, I had a raging crisis over whether to change my major to business. I've been on academic probation, I've had drama in student organizations, I had two internships fall through, and I've had to quit my job. Through all that, Proverbs 3:6 has never once failed me: "in all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." Your job isn't to figure everything out. You can't be approaching all of your sticky situations with an iron fist, demanding they bend to your will, because a lot of them will be too big for you to fix on your own. Your job is simply to worship and to let God work everything else out. He never let me down and He won't let you down either.
Be humble and seek wise counsel.
All 18 year olds think they know everything. That means, by definition, that 18 year olds might be thinking, "Maybe that's true of other people, but I think I'm mature for my age and quite realistic about my limitations." At least, that's what I'd have been thinking. It wasn't true. You are far more easily led into sin than you realize. You are not as spiritually mature as you think. You are not as disciplined as you think. I don't say this to tear you down, but to warn you to be on your guard and to listen carefully to parents, older people at church, and professors. If you ever find yourself thinking, "My parents are usually right, but not this time. They're wrong on this", you need to reverse course immediately. There were people trying to prevent each and every one of my biggest mistakes, but I didn't listen. Don't be like me.
You will become like your friends, for better or worse. Your friends will either pull you toward Jesus or away from Him. If you are honest with yourself, you will know which. Run far, far away from ungodly people, because take it from me: they will make you miserable. I think you will find that just because a college is Christian does not mean all of the students are. There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is destruction (Proverbs 14:12).
To close: You probably won't believe me, but you're going to blink and you'll be wearing that silly robe and flat hat again, walking across the stage into your future. I knew college was going to fly by, but I didn't know how fast. I'm so very glad that I was intentional about savoring the time, and I hope that you will be too.
Five years from now, remember to pass all my advice that worked down to Isa (our youngest sister) as she goes to college. And don't forget to add your own.