Dear College Friends,
Whether you are attending a four-year university, or commuting to a junior college, whether you are living on campus or saving money at home, today I write to you, as you are fresh on my heart.
You, who have much societal and personal pressure to achieve, surpass, do, do, do. You, who have huge dreams and passions and an even grander heart. You, who are setting out on this college adventure with an ocean of questions, unknowns, and eager anticipations. You, College Friends, are amazing and oh-so brave. And I know this because I hung out with some of you the other week at APU and I can’t.stop.thinking. about our conversations.
Let’s imagine I can grab a moment with you. Cupping warm chai, you sip your drink of choice, and I listen to the myriad of thoughts swirling around in that head of yours. No doubt, they are similar to the dreams I pondered as a college student (gulp) 15 years ago.
Are my closest friends here?
How will I change over the next 4 years?
What will I do when I graduate?
Why am I overwhelmed? Tired? Feel that I’m moving in fast-forward?
And let’s be honest, the age old question: Is my future husband or wife in one of my classes?
Can I cheer mugs with yours and validate every.single.question you have. You, College Friends, are in the biggest transitional time of your life.
They say the only thing constant is change, and by now, you know this. Perhaps you moved when you were little. Or changed schools or churches or friends. See? Life happens, and whether joyful or sorrowful, transition is inevitable.
College years are concentrated transitions on steroids. Never in your life will you be around such community, such a wealth of knowledge, with such opportunities to risk, grow, and invite each experience to uncover who you are becoming.
But let’s dig deeper. While transitions are the symptoms of ever-changing life, it’s our IDENTITY that roots our value and security during these transitions. Identity has everything to do with how we respond to change.
And what is identity? It’s WHO you ARE, what your value and worth depend on. Or better yet, as believers, identity is WHOSE you ARE. And your IDENTITY is at the core of the story God is writing in your unique life.
I was born in a hurry. Off to the next coffee date, youth group event, school function, mission trip, party. Go, go, go. Throw in a former people-pleaser and first-born, and I was a recipe for I’ve got this under control disaster. Pretty good at controlling my surroundings and keeping others happy, my identity was manageable. To be honest, I wasn’t convinced I needed to ungrasp my plans and allow God to be my complete identity because I was doing a pretty good job on my own, thank.you.very.much.
A decade and a half ago, when I entered as a college freshmen, I was terrified of missing out. On the outside it appeared as excitement to get involved and connected, but on the inside I was frantic.
College life is one transition brick stacked upon another, a wall high and long, built from a million changes in four years, the foundational future sturdied on what one believes about each brick, each experience.
In Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, King Soloman, in all his God-given wisdom, looked back at his life, abundant with riches and land, and wrote about “everything being a time under heaven.”
And so it is for us. What if you don’t have to look back 5, 15, or 50 years from now and understand that when change happens, your identity doesn’t have to? What if you can embrace a confident Christ-identity today, knowing He is moving mountains in the here and now?
College Friend, it was only when I came to a place I no longer had control of shifting plans and my own strength, and had to depend on Jesus, that I found my true identity. Sure, before I’d attempted to root it in Jesus-ish stuff and great intentions, but my false identity had been clouded in church activities, work, my spouse, zip codes, skills, passions, and even what others thought of me.
Whatever transition draws you to put down the weight of all your carry – your plans and dreams and hard work – to find you are enough simply because God created you and loves you- then, and only then – will you recognize your identity as He intended. Full and enough and free.
Freedom exchanged for control. A perspective shift from “me” to “He.”
College Friend, when you find your worth is enough in Him, that freedom will spill over abundantly into your ever-changing life, and no amount of transition will thwart you.
So what does having a Christ-identity look like practically? How can you embrace this perspective as you go about studying and meeting and eating and learning in the craziest transitional season yet?
* Be present to Him and His voice today. Enjoy each day as it comes. Welcome the dawn, not worrying that you’ll miss out on a relationship, assignment, or job opportunity, but by asking God’s Spirit, Please don’t let me miss YOU today.
* Avoid people-pleasing. There will always be others that are happy when you act how they want you to, or disappointed when you let them down. You can spend the rest of your life chasing imaginary zig-zags in search of an identity found in others approval. OR, you can make it your heartbeat to please Him alone, and trust His Word, His voice, and His people will speak your value louder than other voices.
* Hold life open-handed. In the unknown and the celebratory. When life doesn’t go as planned. When others succeed and you don’t. When the job looks different. Or the guy or girl are nowhere in sight. When you ace an important paper, and find a life-long friend in Human Growth & Development Class, hold life open-handed. Trust, just as King Soloman wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:11, “He has made everything beautiful in His time.” And sometimes His time is not your time. It may be an unexpected detour that leads to an unimaginable destination. Unclench those tight control fists and let Him lead.
College Friends, when, not if, transitions happen, your identity will be made stronger because the changing circumstances offer yet another opportunity to reflect Jesus. And the confidence that comes with that can’t help but spill over into an abundant, trusting, adventurous life.
Our mugs are empty, and you no doubt, have class to attend or people to meet. As you embrace today, here is my prayer for you, my College Friend:
That you would be rooted in God’s truth, knowing your ultimate value and worth is found in Him. As you live out of this truth, your Christ identity will overflow into all you do and say, reflecting Your Maker. You will know confidence and security even when jobs change, zip codes change, your community changes, your spouse doesn’t get you, your purpose seems foggy, or your kids are challenging. When you release control and allow Him to be enough, then freedom will come. Freedom to be present to His work in every detail of your life, trusting He is making all things new. Even in transition.