As a kid, it was easier to live a Christian lifestyle. Your parents made sure your backside was in a seat at church on Sunday. They constantly checked up on you to make sure you were hanging out with the “right crowd” and sometimes wouldn’t even let you go over to a friend’s house until they had met your friend’s parents.
College is a completely different story. Nobody is checking up on you to make sure you’re in church on Sunday. (Heck, nobody is there to tell you what to eat or when to go to bed.) You are living life by your own rules and sometimes that can get the better of you. Is there room for God in college?
Between juggling classes, work and trying to have a social life, it is easy for one to lose sight of God. “I just don’t have the time to get to church on Sundays." I could probably count on one hand the amount of times I attended a church service while attending college until my senior year. It’s not that I didn't want to be there, it is just that I didn’t make the effort to. It’s easier to just sleep in, make breakfast and play video games on Sundays. While it may be easier to just hang out and veg on Sundays and other days of the week, I noticed a difference in my happiness. It was almost like I go went through the motions of life day in and day out and it got to be a discouraging routine of going to class, doing homework and then going to bed. There’s got to be more to life than this, right?
I don’t know what it is, but when I don’t have God in my life, things seem to get more difficult. I’m not saying if you don’t have God in your life that you’re a bad person. That’s not what I am getting at, but it is amazing to see the difference that He makes. By reading scripture in the mornings, it made such a difference. I picked up Tony Dungy’s book The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge and the book helped transform my life in ways I couldn’t imagine before. You only read one page a day, but within that page is a daily message of encouragement and guidance. I feel like each day is a chance to be a blessing to someone and to truly make a difference.
So what about parties? Can I live a Christian lifestyle and still go out? The short answer is: yes. College is a time to experience many different things, but just know where your values lie. Know where your line in the sand is and don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe in. I’m all for having a good time with friends, but when a good time turns into drugs and other things of that nature, that’s when I tend to leave events. Country singer, Aaron Tippin said it best, "You've got to stand for something or you'll fall for anything." Know your values and stick to them. Just because it’s college, doesn’t mean you abandon the way you were raised. Too many people get sucked into things they wouldn’t normally ever do because “it’s college.”
Surround yourself with people who share some of the same values as you and who are going to have a positive impact on you. Do not follow those who will drag you down a path of self destruction and don't share some of the same core values as you.
It wasn't until my senior year of college that I pursued a relationship with God. I'd had enough of the lifestyle I was living and longed for something more. I had the Tony Dungy book that I was diving into and began attending Renew Church in Eau Claire. Through the pairing of those two things, God began to nudge me to form a small group. I had never led a small group before and I didn't feel quite strong enough in my faith yet to be the one leading a group. I didn't have verses memorized and I could only tell you the big stories of the Bible that I remembered from Sunday school as a kid. But I felt it was something that I needed to start, so I began reaching out to friends of mine.
The feedback I got from them was unexpectedly amazing. Almost everyone I reached out to was down for it. We started out with four of us meeting on Monday nights for what we called "God & The Gridiron". We read Tony Dungy's book throughout the week on our own and then on Monday nights we would discuss what we were able to takeaway from the weekly readings. The stories that were shared and the vulnerability in the room was something I had never experienced before or thought was something that could come from a group of men.
As the weeks went by, our group from four to six and we really began to build a community amongst one another. We'd share meals together at times before diving into the study and then we would watch the Monday Night Football game afterwards. It gave us something to look forward to on Mondays and gave us a space where we could share our faith openly.
"We will never become the men we are called to be unless we learn the art of friendship and intentionally cultivate deep, meaningful, rowdy relationships with other men." - Stephen Mansfield
One of my biggest regrets in college is not starting this group earlier. I wish I would've pursued God earlier. But I can't go back and change the past and neither can you. Moving forward, one of the most important lessons I learned was to trust God. I had to trust that He was going to see me through the finals, the heartbreaks, and the periods of wandering. Trust that He was going to walk by my side through it all.
In college, your faith will be tested. Difficult things in your life are going to pop up. Tests come up, papers become due, friends drift apart, relationships fail and loved ones may pass away. It’s vital in these troubled times that you keep your faith. Pray during the good times and during the bad times. Reach out to your friends. Don’t get too caught up in the craziness of college and always remember there’s nothing that you cannot tackle with Him.
"…Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."
You're going to be called upon to do some pretty courageous things in this life. Many of these tasks you'll never feel ready for, but you must take a chance on yourself. He will be by your side to cheer you on in your triumphs and failures in college. But you've got to step out in your faith first.