Dear College Student: Be Brave


Dear College Student,

Be Brave.

This is a big thing you are doing, not a little thing. Jumping head first into the world. Entering the unknown, in order to know and be known deeper; learning, growing, becoming a truer version of yourself.

Some days might be scary. Other days might be lonely. Some days will be filled with laughter, so full and rich, that you’ll beg for more days, just like that one. You’ll crave more of that, want more – stronger relationships, more authentic conversations, more vulnerability and less doubt.

You’ll look around you and know suddenly that these are the people that you’ll stand beside to watch them marry, you’ll walk together through success and failure, you’ll hold each other’s babies. You’ll cry with them when their jerk boyfriend leaves them, even though you never really liked him anyway. You’ll comfort each other with Doritos and Halo Top, when life sucks the heart and soul right out of you. You’ll cheer and jump when someone gets accepted to something that seemed impossible and elite.

But again, none of it will be easy. It will be good, but very rarely will it be easy, and that can be more than a little disconcerting.

It’s time to be brave. Braver than you’ve ever been.

It’s not actually about reaching the skies. Don’t worry, GPA matters, but people matter more.

Be brave.

Care about truth more than being right.

Set some boundaries. Give of yourself, but only give yourself away to Jesus. Care for friendships, stay up late, do crazy things, but know your limit.

Be brave.

Tell boys, “No.” Tell girls, “No.” Only drink when it’s classy, and stop before you think you should. When situations feel not-quite-right, they aren’t. Get out, don’t do it. We all have a reverse button. Use it.

Be brave.

You have one life and one body, be good to it. Eat good food, three times a day, plus snacks. Workout, join intramurals, or be your athletic self. Get sleep. Stand in front of a mirror and tell your body it’s doing a great job. Don’t berate it. Speak the truth in love to yourself. Make sure you don’t creep out your roommate while doing it.

Be brave.

Some friendships may die. Some of the first people you meet may be your friends forever, but it’s ok if your first roommate isn’t the best one, and it’s ok to let a friendship go when it doesn’t bring out the best in either of you. God is always bringing new people into our lives, some things are worth holding on tight to, while some just aren’t. That’s ok.

Be brave.

Decide what really matters today. And if it takes some time to figure it out, that’s fine too. But don’t let professors tell you what really matters. Don’t let Joe Schmo tell you what you believe in.  Surround yourself with people who have questions, but are looking for answers, not those who believe they have them already. There is a difference between believing in something and being a know-it-all.

Be brave.

Listen for and follow people who share hope. Watch out for people who claim zeal with no mercy. Something is off. That’s a warning signal. People who cry mercy, but have no truth, that’s destructive too.

Think for yourself.

Ask often, “Is this truth in love and love in truth?”

Be brave.

Do not leave your Bible at home. You are going to have to open it, even if you never have before. If you don’t own one, go buy one. I’ll send you one, for that matter! You need a foundation, or everything you think you’re building will crumble. Look in the Word of God for the answers. Find pastors and campus ministries. Go to church, not just for the message, but to be part of the people of God. Seek, find, knock, and pray. Otherwise this world will seem so hopeless, so broken, so lost, that it will physically hurt.

Be brave.

Hold tight to Jesus. He’s not worth giving up – for a boy, a class, a job, a reputation, or a moment.

Be brave.

It’s hard. It’s work. It’s good. It’s new. It’s vibrant. It’s awesome.

Walk brave.
Think brave.
Be brave.
These are some of my favorite college students to be brave with.

* …for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord… 2 Timothy 1:7-8a 

 

The good fruit of correction


Not many of us like correction. When you were little were you timid and easily molded by your parents instruction or did you have a rebellious internal spirit, difficult to tame and lead, what Dr. Dobson would refer to as the “Strong Willed Child”? Maybe you were a mash up- delightful one minute but bullheaded.

Even if we were easily corrected as a child, no child really likes correction. Who loved a spanking or even a good talking to? Whether we cowered at our parents’ mention of time out or busted full throttle through a threat and on to serious discipline, the correction itself is not the part we liked so much as the satisfaction of independence.

As adults, we’re not much different. No one naturally likes a demerit at work, no one loves to be the one who receives a redo on a project, or a “honey, could you do such-and-such differently” at home. We might like the fruit of correction eventually – a promotion, better understanding, richer marriage communication – but criticism, even when it’s absolutely and wholly constructive, is not found on any of our lists of “Favorite Things”.

James has something to say about correction in James 4:5-10. First focus only on the center of this section and then we’ll zoom out. James 4:7-9:

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.

This is correction. A requirement to submit to the authority in charge, namely our mom or dad, our husbands, our teachers, our bosses, or our government leaders. Our internal spirit vacillates between relief that someone else is in charge and frustration that it’s not us. We like control, so submission, even in the most submissive of individuals, is a task of growth, best done intentionally.

Listen to James’s words – submit, humble, cleanse, purify. I’m reminded of just how hard it is to get my kids to remember to intentionally wash their hands after using the bathroom, much less the intentional work of submitting to my husband, even though he is kind of gentle, and to my government leaders when I rarely 100% agree with their ideas and laws.

But we submit to a Higher Authority first. Our big beef with correction when we get down to it, is that God is in charge and we are not. We like to choose our own path, direct our own ways and we simply were not made for that. James uses the best language imaginable for the type of submission that goes with correction in our relationship with God. Look back at James 4:8 –

Draw near to God…

Write it somewhere to remember it. If I were crazy (and I am) I would write it on my hand, or my foot, or the top of my knee, to remind me that relationship with God means bending said knee and bowing my pretty little head. It is submission and that’s important- He’s Holy and Mighty and Far Above. But God operates differently in relationship with Him than He does outside of relationship with Him. Submitting in relationship with God is drawing near, being held, and yes, being corrected.

Zoom out to the wider view of James 4:5-10. Read the whole passage below. If you have your Bible out, underline verses 5-6 to see the relationship that we are given with our Father through the Savior.

Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

He gives more grace…

That’s Who He is. He gives more grace. Correction is hard…

That pinprick of the conscience when we know we’ve done wrong

Opening our mouth for words of apology when we have spoken too harshly

Walking the hard road because we took our own way the first time around

Correction is hard.

But take heart! Correction by the Father is always delivered with grace. We can see the fruits of it through this lens.

Forgiveness can come in –

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9

Goodness comes in, completeness comes in  –

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.   2 Timothy 3:16

Rootedness comes in –

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
    but he who hates reproof is stupid.
No one is established by wickedness,
    but the root of the righteous will never be moved.          Proverbs 12:1,3

These are good fruits! God fruits.

James calls our laughter to be mourning and our joy to be gloom, but only because he knows that in that correction for a moment, we can see the light of Eternity forever.

We see our God clearer and closer. He’s right there, eyes in the back of His head, just like a Father, watching in tenderness.

He gives more grace…Draw near…

He’s ready to pick us up when we fall down, dust us off, and help us along as we journey the steep and the narrow, the wide and the open, always one day closer and nearer to Him.

 

Discussion:

What were you like as a child? How did you deal with correction?

Is there any particular instance of correction you remember growing up?

How has God corrected you in adulthood and when is a time you came through the correction, thankful for His guidance?

No chameleons welcome

When I was young I dated a guy that I would classify as a chameleon. You never knew what you were going to get. I have spent many a night lamenting the choices of my youth, but we each learn and we grow. One thing that God showed me during repeated sessions of repentance and forgiveness, was this…

it takes a chameleon to know a chameleon.

By that I mean, part of the reason I attracted or was attracted to guys who changed colors and shape like they changed outfits, was that when I looked deep down, I did as well.

It’s easy to shift when you’re young, trying on personalities, ideas, and opinions. Part of growing is growing out of our chameleon skin. The chameleon in us is part of what Paul calls, spiritual infancy. See what he has to say about it in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 –

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?

We are ready. We have been growing. And we desire to grow more. We are big and brave enough with Christ in and around us to let God flesh out the chameleon pieces still stuck inside. Let’s see what James has to say about being one whole person, rather than a chameleon with shifting and changing fruit.

Look through the following passages in James to get an overview. James addresses this chameleon issue in almost every chapter. Although the passages each address different topics, you’ll see the chameleon effect running through all of them.

James 1:5-8, James discusses how easy it is for us to be doubtful in prayer and what we ask from God. We believe He is capable, but live wondering if He’s capable:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

James 3:9-10, James addresses the tendency for our tongue to run one way and then another on any given day:

With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.

James 4:8-10, James addresses our failure to admit our sinfulness, while identifying the irony that facing our guilt and shame allows God to exalt us in forgiveness. We haphazardly try to present a version of ourselves to others that doesn’t “need” forgiveness:

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

James 5:12, James calls out the chameleon in each of us point blank. We like to say no when we mean yes, and yes when we mean no. Oh goodness, I don’t know about you, but I am over those games:

12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

Growing up means looking at the world honestly, but it also means looking at ourselves honestly. Where in our lives do we present ourselves differently than others? Where do we shine God’s light and where do we put Him in a box and forget about Him?

I’m just as guilty as anyone. The good news is that fruit comes from our Savior and His Spirit and not our own whims. We are given the gift of His fruit when we fail. We confess and are forgiven, our hands are cleaned, and then we grow up. We shed that chameleon coat and when it pops back on, we turn to God and ask Him to do the hard work of molting it off some more.

Thank you, Lord for growing us up in You. Guide our hearts and our lives to live in Your salvation. Give us clarity where we need it and hope when we need it. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Discussion –

When you were young, did you do anything silly that you wish you would have never done?

Look through James Chapter 2, what in this chapter can you apply to the chameleon effect and God’s good work in us of growth?

What area of your life would you like God to help you grow up more in?