Here we are at the beginning of a new school year. For some of you, the first year of college. For others, you are “seasoned” and are returning to friends you haven’t seen for a few months, saying goodbye to family, and trying to remember how studying works.
I have chosen a theme this year for you and me, based off of a blog post I read about a month ago: You have everything you need to begin.
We often feel so out of control, so lost, so overwhelmed when we begin something new. It doesn’t matter if it is your freshman year or junior year, you are beginning. It is a new year, a new journey, a new season of life. There will be new memories made, hardships encountered, obstacles faced, friendships formed, and who knows what else. I remember each summer returning to my college campus; it felt like the first page of a brand new journal.
So students, and everyone else really, imagine we are sitting at that table, with our coffee and donuts (y’all know how I feel about donuts). Let me speak some words at you. These are some of my thoughts and hopes for you this year:
I hope that you will pay attention to yourself.
There is so much going on in college (and life), all the time. I will never forget one of my college friends saying to me my freshman year, “I knew you would come – you always say yes!” You can run yourself ragged under the guise of community and memories – but you might lose yourself in the process. Make space for yourself. Create a place for rest. Not just sleep, although you people need to freaking SLEEP. Rest in the Father, trusting that spending time with Him will always be better than whatever you had to turn down.
One of the most beautiful things you will learn in this life is that you deserve to be healthy. You are worth taking care of. This means eating normal meals (I’m still bad at that one), sleeping normal hours, and caring for your soul. Surround yourself with people who will honor your “no” and celebrate your “yes.” Find a tribe of people who will help you navigate those well. Respect yourself enough to live well; you will be better for it.
I hope that you will seek wise counsel.
Your season of life is one full of so much learning and so many hard questions, and you should not have to navigate those alone. If you can think of someone who you feel would be able to speak into a certain situation in your life? Invite them to get coffee. More often than not, people will be so honored by that request that they will definitely say yes.
Finding a mentor in college was one of the best things I ever did for myself. She is still an important voice in my life and it was a season I will always treasure. Allow people to invest in you. You are worth investing in. I kind of feel like college is a season where you can be a sponge and just soak up a ton of knowledge and not feel selfish about it. I know you are learning so much in the classroom, but I would argue that your out of class experiences may teach you even more. Those experiences will have a lasting impact on who you become and how you live your life.
I hope that you will feel all the feelings.
I’ll be real with you, I experienced the rollercoaster of emotions during college. I had some of the most fun, sad, depressing, scary, lonely, and everything else times of my life during that season.
So all I am saying is this: allow yourself to feel the feelings. Don’t try to suppress them. Run headlong into your emotions and sort them out. Otherwise they own you. Go to counseling. Talk to your friends. Call your mom. Let people help you work through The Feelings. They are real and good and normal.
Emotions are good; they are what let us know we are alive. They also help us know what is happening to us. God gave us emotions as a way to help guide us, but we need Him to help us interpret them. We cannot always take our emotions as absolute truth. Sometimes I feel mad or jealous and it is totally unreasonable. But sometimes I feel sad and it is a caution sign telling me I need to process some things with the Lord.
It is okay to cry. Over all the things. My senior year, I cried over popcorn one time. I sobbed through the communion line at church. I shed tears over Grey’s Anatomy. It didn’t matter what I was doing – the fact was that I was sad and scared that my life was about to change a lot. Letting myself feel those feelings and letting other people into my vulnerability was one of the most beautiful seasons of my life. It changed me, for the better. I had to learn that I was worthy of love and comfort even when I was a mess. You are worthy of love and comfort.
I hope that you will pursue Jesus.
I am more inspired and encouraged to grow in my faith by the students at our school than almost anywhere else. You guys have a passion and a longing for Jesus that is unparalleled. It is so real. You are constantly talking about Him, worshiping Him, and wanting to know Him more.
So, I just want you to be encouraged to do that. To keep doing that. I love your heart for learning about Him, and I hope that you really get to know Him. Sometimes in the classroom that can get messy and hard. Your faith becomes something you are studying and taking tests on and that can take away some of the simplicity and tenderness of it. Don’t lose your longing for intimacy and passion for knowing Him.
With every passing year, I am so humbled by the gift of knowing Jesus. He is so tender with our hearts, He is so full of grace for us in our mistakes. He is the best thing that will ever happen to us. Whatever you do, seek Him. There is nothing that matters more in this lifetime.
As you enter this year, I’m praying for you. The word that the Lord has laid on my heart for you is abundance:
I pray for these friends of mine to have an abundance of hope, faith, JOY, community, capacity, rest, courage and whatever else they might need this year. I am praying that they would experience an abundance of Your Presence with them. Would you hold them gently and reveal a whole new aspect of Yourself to them? I ask, knowing that You are a God who answers and who is faithful. I pray that individually and corporately they would seek You and ask You who You are. I pray that their desire would be to know You deeply and personally.
Holy Spirit, would you invade their lives, awakening them to new life – abundant life. Teach them new and beautiful truths about who You are. I pray for their hearts to be softened and ready, expectant for all that You want to do in and through them this year. I pray that You would raise up love warriors who will love the world into more-ness. That they would love each other and the world into redemption and reconciliation. I pray for scales to fall off, so they can experience realness – being loved for exactly who they are. They are worthy of that love.