What Are You in School For?

“I am in school to get an education…” I get it. You came to college to get a degree. To get a job. So studying is important.  Who can argue with that?

And if you’re at an elite institution the stakes are even higher. Average is anathema. It’s not just about getting a degree and getting a job. It’s about competing with all of the others who are there to do it better than you. You’ve got to somehow stand out in a class of standouts. So studying is important. Who can argue with that?

Your parents aren’t going to like me much.

I was a latecomer to Christianity. The year in college when I got my first and only A minus, which irreparably tarnished my perfect GPA, happened to also be the year I met Jesus. He life-altering-ly came into my life.

Jesus changed me. I wish the change had come faster. The following year, I got my first and only B.

Another Cru staff guy I know, Tim Norman, gave a talk early in my Cru staff life entitled “The Copernican Revolution of the Soul.” The Copernican Revolution was the seismic paradigm shift that took place in the western world when Copernicus made the discovery that the Earth is not the center of the galaxy; our solar system revolves around our Sun. (Catch the double meaning of revolution?! Tim’s cool like that.)

A similar transformation needs to take place in the life of every single Jesus follower. I am not the center of the Universe. Jesus is. Me and my tiny little orbit is not all there is. Everything is by Him and through Him and for Him. And that changes everything.

When I became a Christian and was exposed to the totality of the claim that Jesus has upon my life, I wish I could say that it was instantaneous, but my little orbit didn’t end automatically. In fact, there are few days when there’s not some impulse to take Jesus’s place at the center, expecting Jesus to take his place revolving around me.

Even early in my Christian life, I was savvy enough to know that Jesus isn’t opposed to education. He values the mind. He created it. Certainly he would want me to study and do my best for him and be a good witness for him in the classroom. After all, I’m in college to get an education...

Those things, on their face, are true.  But my statements stemmed from a central foundational belief which was false – one that hadn’t really undergone the revolution. Jesus baptizes my plans and my dreams. He orbits me.

Being a part of a movement of people who were genuinely seeking, however falteringly, to give Jesus his rightful place at the center, and grappling with big questions about calling and purpose and stewardship – that, over time, changed my perspective. My regret, unfortunately, is that it came too late to shape my college years in the profound way they might have.

What if you’re not in college, ultimately, for you? What if you’re not in college merely as the product of your good decisions, but by God’s design? What if you’re in college on a God-ordered path of growth and sanctification, specially meant to help conform you to his image? What if that path includes giving yourself away to others, sacrificing like Jesus, and dying in order to take up the life of Jesus? That path might mean studying less. Jesus would be ok with that. Would you?

Why not come earlier to the party than I did and put yourself in an environment to experience the revolution… My revolution didn’t happen over night. Experience tells me that yours might take some time too. I’m so glad there were people on campus who believed that Jesus is worth it and wanted that revolution for themselves and for me.

What If I Hadn’t…

What if I hadn’t…? You fill in the blank. Have you ever traced the chain of events that brought you to some point in time? It’s kind of a fun thing to do. Think of a close friend. How did you meet? What if you hadn’t…? You fill in the blank. What if you hadn’t gone to that party? What if you had sat in a different seat? What if you had done something else instead?

This week, thousands of students will be making seemingly insignificant decisions – fleeting and minuscule in the grand scheme of things. A decision to go to the bookstore because someone invited him. A decision not to go out with a large crowd, because something in her gut just didn’t feel right. A decision to try something he never tried before.

And fleeting and seemingly minuscule decisions in the grand scheme of things change lives. There are few truly inconsequential decisions. There are many more that when we look back on them have far more importance than we’d have ever imagined.

At The Ohio State University, where I used to serve with Cru, the opening week of the school year would always end for us with a huge party – this year it’s a Hog Roast I think. Students intentionally invited hundreds of their friends and especially new students – freshmen on their campus.

Every year I was amazed how that one event – and that one decision – often changed the entire course of someone’s life. At the Hog Roast, a girl meets someone who is nice to her. With all of the music and noise, and with the crowds of strangers, they pretty much cling to one another, even though they know little about the other. But that night changes everything. They eventually become intimate friends. Because of that friendship, she attends a Bible study. Several weeks later, she realizes that knowing God is actually possible, that God has revealed Himself, and that Jesus has made Him known. She begins a relationship with Him. Life will never be the same for her. That story could be told hundreds of times.

A Hog Roast… 

Undoubtedly there are also hundreds of stories of people whose lives went on an entirely different trajectory on that same Friday night. Some thought they were writing grand stories for their lives, and then suddenly, they became clichés. You know, the “COLLEGE” t-shirt. Who ever says, “Man, when I get to school, I hope I become a cliché?” Honestly though, cliché is a little too tepid. It might make you want to throw up a little bit in your mouth, but it’s soon forgotten. Anyone who has lived the consequences of bad decisions knows it’s worse than a mere cliché. It’s not innocent and it’s rarely forgotten.

But just like my experience, maybe a new trajectory is just a decision (written by God) away.

What trajectory might you set for yourself or someone near you over the next week? Where might your decision fit into a storyline whose trajectory God wants to alter?

Join up with a movement of Christ-followers. Invite others along.