College is not about you

My younger self dreamed about college, about finally getting out of my too-tiny town and having the chance to decide what it was I wanted to do and who I wanted to be. Now I am here and I wonder if my younger self would be disappointed.

Little Phoebe read too many Magic Tree House books and longed to be an archaeologist. She then figured many of the world’s ancient artifacts would probably be unearthed by the time she was able to get to the sites herself. That’s fine, she’d always loved the ocean, so marine biologist it was. I’m not sure what happened between marine biologist and astronaut, but obviously the latter is much cooler.

We all begin college with the zealousness of a child. We dreamed different dreams, sure, but that’s just it – we dreamed. Somewhere along the way grade point averages, disappointment and, let’s face it, reality sets in. It’s not unusual to hear people in my generation complaining about the difficulties of “adulting.” I know because I’ve done it, too.

While it’s OK to admit we have areas to grow in, I would argue it’s even more important to remember what an incredible privilege it is to be a college student in the United States. We have some of the best universities in the world and here at Baylor we have the unique opportunity to pursue our vocational and Christian callings as one in the same.

There are children growing up around the world whose dreams of becoming the first woman on the moon or the next best-selling author may never be realized. There are people who would kill to be in your position, as overwhelmed or inadequate as you may feel. Don’t misunderstand this as permission to feel better about yourself because someone else was born in a different situation. None of us get to choose the cards we’re dealt, yet here we are.

I’ve had the opportunity in my short life to travel to numerous countries. I’ve seen the faded uniforms of grade-school children in Cambodian villages and the calloused feet of men and women whose bare soles leave marks in dirt paths. I’ve witnessed American excess in cities like Las Vegas and have been moved by the desperate prayers of pilgrims in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

I can’t explain why a great disparity exists within and outside of our country, but one thing that encourages me to keep dreaming is the hope educational opportunities offer all of us.

At the end of the day, many things we worry about as college students won’t matter. It won’t matter what Greek organization we were or weren’t a part of, what kind of grades we made and, to an extent, what major we choose. Going into this new school year, and for some of us, this new chapter in our lives, I think it’s important to remember why we are at Baylor in the first place.

I can’t answer that for you, but here’s my why: What do I know and whose life will be changed because of it?

Don’t get too comfortable with your faith

Baylor’s “Christian atmosphere” is both the reason I chose to attend this university and the reason I, at times, longed to leave.

What does it say about us as Christians if the only thing connecting us to Christ is the Bible verse we quote on social media? If the mission trips we take turn into photo-ops? If the only time we pray is following a crisis or before a meal? How can we educate students for worldwide leadership and service if our Christian commitment only goes as far as we are comfortable?

When being a Christian becomes the norm, it’s natural we all grow comfortable, hiding layers of pain and brokenness beneath the façade of Proverbs 31:25 (She is clothed with strength and dignity and laughs without fear of the future) or Philippians 4:13 (I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me).

I didn’t come to Baylor expecting sanctimonious crowds, but I also didn’t anticipate some of the negative effects of Christian culture.

We sing praises to God in Chapel, at lifegroup, in the sanctuary, all the while living our lives the way we personally desire in virtually every other aspect. We seek the kingdom of God after the rest of our earthly kingdoms have seemingly fallen into place.

Although I’m nearing the end of my Baylor journey, I am beginning to see the university in the same way I see the church. Baylor will never be a perfect place because it is made up of people like you and me.

The “Baylor bubble” is a real thing, and it is truly sad that at times it becomes a pseudo-world in which we have only enough of Christ to appease our superficial desires to be named with Him but not to suffer with Him.

In Philippians 3:10 Paul writes, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.” In his commentary “Barnes’ Notes: On the Old Testament” theologian Albert Barnes said, “Many are willing to reign with Christ, but they would not be willing to suffer with him; many would be willing to wear a crown of glory like him, but not the crown of thorns; many would be willing to put on the robes of splendor which will be worn in heaven, but not the scarlet robe of contempt and mockery.”

Throughout the gospels, Jesus encourages His disciples time and again to forsake everything to follow Him.

Living for Christ in a Christian context often means we don’t have to give up much in order to follow Him. We don’t necessarily feel compelled to go out of our way to show Christ to others when it’s assumed the person sitting next to us knows Jesus.

Some of the so-called struggles we face as Christians in America (and in the Bible Belt, at that) are nothing in comparison to the persecution millions of Christians face throughout the world. However, didn’t Jesus also say to whom much is given, much is to be required?

Whether we realize it or not, each of us have been given so much, including the opportunity to be at the world’s largest Baptist university. Let’s be good stewards of the gospel that has been entrusted to us and quit playing it safe.

“Aslan is a lion–the Lion, the great Lion.”
“Ooh,” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“…Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

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