“I’m not going to fall away. That’s the last thing I’d do. Faith is central to me.” The camera filmed as he stated exactly what so many students think after graduating high school. Then he continued “…that bubble burst within months.”
The typical eight-hour school schedule, face-to-face conversations with parents and familiar community will largely vanish in just a few short months. High school seniors are about to write their own story. From the party scene to classes to relationships, the power to decide will be in their hands. They now sit in the driver’s seat.
They are finishing a known chapter and simultaneously preparing for an unknown one. Often more open to advice in this uncomfortable transition, there are three last conversations I try to have…
3 Conversations to Have Before Seniors Leave for College
#1: Be free and be a slave.
No curfew. No asking permission. No having to answer 1000 questions. They are free to do whatever they want. They are in control. They can almost taste the freedom!
Yet no one is really free. We are all slaves to something. Every choice I make points to a Master I have set in my life. In a physically and emotionally intense relationship it may be obvious that I am a slave to attention. Yet the “good kid” praised for his grades and diligence in school may actually be a slave to the master of “you must perform.” Whether it is success, approval, belonging, or something else – our hearts will always choose to worship something.
I will worship, but I can choose who or what I worship. This ability to choose my Master then is true freedom. And despite all of society’s assumptions, I want my girls to understand that choosing Christ as Master is not resignation to a dull college experience. It doesn’t mean locking yourself in your room with your school books on Friday night. It doesn’t mean being the outcast. Yes, it can be hard and lonely and involve declining that invitation to go out – yet it’s a road full of purpose. A road filled with moments to be happily remembered rather than uncomfortable memories you wish you could forget.
#2: Think twice before taking anything in Satan’s candy store.
No college student makes a decision thinking “I’ll do this so I can experience heartbreak.” Every choice we make always appears to come with a reward.
If you do drugs, you’ll feel better.
If you drink, you’ll fit in.
If you hit snooze on Sunday morning, you’ll get more sleep.
If you have sex with him, he’ll love you.
Yet while in life we get to pick our choices, we don’t get to pick our consequences. The decisions we make matter. Every decision – even the small everyday ones – are taking us somewhere. The question is whether our decisions are taking us where we want to go.
And Satan is a liar. He will dangle pleasure and downplay the consequences – only to accuse and shout of your failure moments after. The pleasure now isn’t worth the regret.
John Piper perhaps says it best as he reasons…
“The Son of God suffered (really suffered!) to
deliver me from sinning. I cannot believe he suffered to make me miserable. Therefore, what he died to purchase must be more wonderful than the pleasures of sin. Since I trust him, my susceptibility to [Satan’s] allurements have shriveled up and died.
Satan, be gone! My mouth doesn’t drool any more when I walk by your candy store.”
#3: Pick good company – you will look like them soon. Your community will change you.
Community will be one of the greatest determining factors of whether we sink or swim in our faith whether after high school or into adulthood. So regardless of whether they decide to rush and join a sorority or commit to a campus club, the company they pick the first few months lays a foundation.
We all have to beware of floating into friendships. Just because someone accepts us doesn’t mean they are good for us – and it’s not an area we can afford to get wrong. Befriending the wrong people puts us in harm’s way (Proverbs 13:20). Knowing the consequences makes the risk of rejection worth it when we meet a girl who is following the Lord yet can’t imagine her wanting to spend time with us. Ask anyway. Ask her to coffee. Ask if there is a day she’d like to do lunch. I think we’d often be surprised at how frequently that person says yes.
This healthy community also goes beyond friends. The local church was designed by Christ to be part of our community. Watching a service online can be good for information, but lacks the transformative power of community. Community can’t come from a computer or phone screen. It comes in the vulnerability and transparency of face-to-face friendships, in the rubbing of shoulders with those in church. Finding a new church home is a process. It requires research, looking for ways to serve and ultimately trying a couple different places. Yet committing to a local church by the end of first semester will help establish healthy community in this new season.
My college girls make me laugh when I get a text message exclaiming “it’s like I can hear you in my head!” Yet it also encourages me. If biblical teaching regarding who their confidence is in, what choices they are making and what community they are choosing echoes in their head as they navigate this new chapter – they are one step ahead.