Going off to college can seem pretty scary. You've already made a lot of big choices: large or small, secular or Christian, professional or liberal arts, urban or rural, and so on. And that's just the start. You'll give your college a lot of money and a huge part of your self and soul—classes, study, and learning—all that prepping for what lies beyond. Lots of time and energy will go into relationships in classes, dorms, playing fields, and just about every place else on a campus. And on it goes. No matter how hard you try or how smart you are, there are going to be surprises, most of them good but also a fair share of goofs and a lot of uncertainties: homesickness, lousy teachers, boring classes, silly people, fickle friends. Get used to it; life's like that. Amid the excitement and frustration, three things are worth remembering:
1) College is an amazing opportunity, and you're very lucky. A staggeringly small amount of people in human history and few alive today have the opportunity to go to college. You will be asked to learn a great deal, much of which will prepare you for your career and, more importantly, for life itself. Take advantage of it. The opportunity to learn may not be there later when you begin working and building a family. Learn, lucky you, while you can.
2) Love and savor life itself—seeing, breathing, and enjoying all God has given. This is what God made life for: the simplest pleasures in friendship, and adoration with the whole of creation. This world is packed with exquisite ordinary splendors that God lavishes on life, and not all the wealth of Bill Gates and Donald Trump combined approaches the warmth of the sun or the song of a bird. The world is cause for wonder and unending gratitude.
3) Remember God will not abandon you when tough times come. Paul the apostle tells the church in Rome, which is hiding out and fearing the lions, that nothing can separate them from the love of God (Romans 8:39). Not everything turns out peachy, but even amid tragedy, God is present, even when it doesn't look or feel like it. God knows the number of hairs of each person's head and can turn misfortune toward good, the darkness to dawn. That sounds wild and hysterical—especially in the mess-ups of living, but then again, God is known to do that sort of thing, over and over.
Be glad, then, and grateful. Relish the resplendent gifts God has so lavishly given.
Roy Anker teaches English at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.