To my sister:
When you said that you wanted to go to college, I was glad for you, but I was afraid too. College is a world of its own, and there are so many pitfalls there for the Christian woman, even at schools that claim to follow Christ. Were you ready? But who is ever ready?
A few weeks before you began, you and I went on a long walk and I told you the things that I had learned about my own college journey, and the things that I wish I had done better.
I told you that college will stuff you full of so much knowledge so quickly that you will not be able to sort out the truth from the falsehood. You will simply have to memorize, memorize, memorize and then repeat the expected answers for the tests.
Some ideas will tweak your mind in passing--"That doesn't seem right. But exactly why does it disturb me?"--but those questions will be buried under exam-cramming and the sheer volume of information. Then you will forget and move on before you have finished processing.
Be careful. Be aware that ideas you regurgitated for tests may not be true. Do not simply accept something because you do not have the time to study it fully. Hold all new ideas lightly until you have the time to seek out reality.
I told you that people will treat you like you are stupid because you believe that God made the world in six days, that God even exists. They will make you feel like an idiot, in contexts in which you will not always have the opportunity to defend yourself.
And I told you to accept looking like a fool. If the entire world taught you that gravity is a figment of your imagination and that stepping off an airborne plane without a parachute will not result in your death, would you feel justified in speaking out, no matter who contradicted you? How much more justified are you in speaking out about truths of eternal weight? When you stand before the Lord, and He judges between you and the person who now laughs at you, you will be vindicated. You will look like a fool whether you whisper the truth or declare it boldly, so why not declare?
I told you that you will not always have answers for their arguments and questions. Don't be afraid of that. If someone were to ask you what your father's favorite food is, and you did not know, would you then feel embarrassed? Would you doubt his existence? Would you question whether you were his daughter? No. You would simply tell the person that you will ask your father, and he will supply the answer. Or they could ask him for themselves.
The Lord is your Father, and His kingdom is not threatened by your limited knowledge. Let questions spur you to study, but do not feel ashamed when confronted. Simply reply with the confidence of one who knows that her Father is listening to the conversation, and able to act if He so wishes.
I told you that they are watching you--your teachers and your classmates. They want to know if what you believe is worth your reputation. When they see that you are steadfast and unashamed, even though you look foolish, they will wonder about the power behind your faith. They will crave your security and peace. They are looking for something true enough to sacrifice for. Your foolishness may be your greatest witness.
I told you that you will be tempted to compromise your values. It will not come as a direct assault, but as a slow chipping away at the outer edges of your faith, then a gradual spiraling inward toward the core. Be vigilant against such erosion. Check your actions continually against the standard of the Word.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego could have reasoned that their bodies might bow, but their minds would be praising the true God. But they refused to even appear to worship idols, and their bold stance became their most powerful witness. Refuse even the appearance of compromise.
I told you that college is not putting your life on hold until you can participate in your true ministry. College is your life and your ministry. This is not a bridge from here to there, but a vital part of your life's journey. Embrace it fully.
I knew, when we finished speaking, that I could not be there for you in the coming years, when decisions must be made in a moment's thought and the future can hang upon a slender thread of choice. But I also knew that you were not going onto that campus alone. He will go before you, He will stand behind you, and He will watch you every moment of your journey. To the one who seeks His wisdom, He provides lavishly.
Do not forget that the best knowledge will not be found in the classroom, but in the cross. Learn from Him--and you will be made strong.
None of my life has gone the way it was "supposed to go," but I don't love my life any less because of the hardships and new directions. I see so much unexpected good in it, and I want others to see the good in theirs.