Last August saw the beginning of the fulfillment of a four-year dream. That dream was to attend Biola University, a Christian college in southern California. On the road there, at times that dream seemed unattainable, and at times nothing more than a foolish fantasy, but in the end, it became reality.
It was one of those rare times when the reality is everything you hope it will be, when the fulfillment of a dream lives up to your expectations. Biola has been amazing, and I thank God for blessing me by allowing me time there. Yet no sooner did the fall semester start than I became aware that my time at Biola is limited. Through prayer and seeking God’s will, He showed me that He wants me to return now to a secular environment, to return to living in the mission field of higher education. To shorten a long story, next fall I transfer to Cal State University Fullerton (CSUF) after only a year at Biola.
I am both excited and scared to go.
When I came, I was broken inside by the hopelessness and heartlessness of what many of my teachers had been teaching me my whole life, especially in my years at the community college. I was disenchanted with the academic world. I wondered what the point of it all was, in the end.
Now, my soul has been revitalized by teachers who are passionate about God, their subjects, and their students, whose learning has not left them hardened but has opened their hearts and taught them to love more freely, think more deeply, and live more truly. Now, I am excited to keep learning and to reach out to the hurt and lost in the world of teachers and students. Refreshed, I’m ready to step back into the mission field.
Yet I’m also afraid. I know difficulties await me, things I have not had to face this year, trials and lies our enemy the devil will throw at me to keep me from following God’s will. I am also afraid that I will start regretting this year I took at Biola, doubting that it was God’s will, thinking that I pulled a Jonah and ran from CSUF (which, according to this line of thinking, I would consider my Ninevah). That is not the truth. Right now, I know God led me to Biola for this time, and I know that I am following Him away to CSUF now. So, in preparation for the doubts that are sure to come, I am making a list of the things I learned this year.
1. I learned so much about the Bible and history. Whole worlds of meaning in its words are now unlocked to me, things I never picked up on before, themes I didn’t see clearly, and connections I missed. I also have been equipped with tools for further study and for continuing to seek God throughout my life.
2. I learned that professors are students just as I am. We are all part of a culture of learning, discovering new things no matter how long we live. This makes my professors accessible to me. They are not beings of a higher level than me; they are humans. Therefore, when I have questions or need help, I can and should ask them. That is their job. That should be why they are teachers in the first place.
3. I learned that sometimes places you think are going to be long stops on your journey through life are little more than way stations in God’s plans. That’s okay. His timing is perfect.
4. I learned that it’s okay to open your heart to make new friends, even if you won’t know them for long. Each friendship is a rich experience that I would miss out on by guarding my heart to closely. Yes, to make myself vulnerable invites heartbreak, pain, and betrayal, but if I don’t take the risk, I will never experience the benefits. Friends are like candles in a dark world, giving light and helping you find the way when you’re in the dark.
5. I learned that God will always provide for my needs, not necessarily my wants, and not necessarily in the way I expect Him to. (In fact, rarely in the way I expect Him to.)
6. I learned more about my weaknesses. I know my flaws and the temptations I have the hardest time resisting, and I know how incapable I am of being good and doing the right thing on my own. I learned a deeper familiarity with my humanity.
7. I learned a bit more about God’s grace. I learned that it is incomprehensible to me, that it transcends my understanding—and that it is real. However big #6 is, #7 will always be bigger. God’s love overwhelms me. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness….For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love” (Lamentations 3:22-23, 31-32).
8. I learned that my life, no matter how old I live, is short. And not one single breath of it belongs to me. God, my Creator, my Savior, my King—He owns every thought in my head. In view of His mercy, in view of His grace, I need to remember this. I cannot waste my life on fruitless, empty pleasure; no, I need to make the most of every moment, train my thoughts to honor Him, and live in full, willing obedience to His will. Otherwise I waste my life.
9. I learned to observe people more, do pay attention to the way individuals act and think. This makes one a better friend and a better author. I also learned to pay attention to my conversations, because so much important information can be derived from them. For example, if you would know who you can trust with a secret, listen to your conversations with people. If they tell you things about others, you can be pretty sure they will tell others about you. So if you want to be trustworthy, don’t gossip.
10. I guess the theme of most of what I learned is summed up in the words of Sheldon Kopp: “In the long run we get no more than we have been willing to risk giving”—in relationships, in education, in grades, in seeking adventures, in following God.
I learned many, many more small things than this, but this is a good sized list for the present, and I am out of time for now.
What are the things you have learned while in whatever situation or place you are in currently?