To all the youth back home, let this be a heads up for you. College is a life changer, more than any other event in your life so far. While high school can be challenging at the time, the most terrifying moment of your life may come when you go to bed that first night in a small room, next to a stranger that you met earlier that day. Your world is turned upside down and it’s frightening at first. Mom is no longer there to make home-cooked meals, temptations abound all around you, and the homework begins to pile up. I’ll admit that the first few weeks were far from easy. I shed my share of tears and wanted to go back home to my comfort zone of my family multiple times. But you know what I found in the midst of all of the craziness and busyness? The simple answer is my faith. And here’s why…
I have always grown up in a faith-filled household. Of course, as most of you know, my father has been a pastor since I was born. Church was never an option. I went to Sunday School and Godparents. Faith always was in my life. However, I don’t know if I ever actually took ownership of my faith during my middle and high school years. I did all the right things, but when it came down to it, how much did I do because I actually wanted to? For most youth, we go to church because our parents tell us to. Of course, we don’t complain and we usually do get something out of the sermon or Bible readings for that day. But do you ever actively seek out a faith life for yourself? I know that I never did; it was always handed to me. This is no fault to any parents out there. Mine did a great job instilling faith in me and I am grateful to them for doing that. When I came to college though, I realized that I had to make my faith my own, and thankfully, Valparaiso University has provided me with the opportunity to do just that.
Here at VU, faith is considered to be an integral part of campus life. As a result there are a large amount of opportunities for me to participate in. The chapel hosts at least ten services per week, the campus pastors lead multiple Bible studies, and different religious student groups help to nurture faith among the student body. These are all awesome events and groups to be a part of but I have found that the more essential aspect to building an active faith life is the group of friends I surround myself with. My close friends are all Lutheran Christians who desire to have faith lives like I do. They want to be active in their faiths as well and, as a result, we go together to worship services, Bible studies, and servant projects. This special connection has allowed us to become closer to one another and get to know each other more than any other event that we could participate in together. We want to go together so we never feel awkward or alone and that has been great. I am so thankful for these friends that God has blessed me with here at Valpo as it has allowed me to remain grounded in my faith and on a successful path. It still is a daily choice to actively seek a strong faith in God and it definitely can still be difficult. By keeping friends around me that push me to stay in the Word though, I have been able to remain more faithful than I would have otherwise been on my own.
My faith life here currently consists of Sunday morning church at an area congregation, Sunday night Candlelight (Holden Evening Prayer), Wednesday night Celebrate (contemporary music), daily chapel, and two weekly Bible studies. This is way more than I ever thought I would do with my faith here at Valpo but I consider each part of it to be essential. I hate having to skip any of the services here because I feel like a part of me is missing when I am unable to go. I do believe that my faith is now my own and I am so glad that I can say that. It has definitely been a growing process that has been difficult at times. Now, over two months in, I have rediscovered my faith that has always been inside of me.
My faith has grounded me and kept me going throughout this first semester. I am refreshed through my faith life here at Valpo. Often, my day gets so busy that I forget to stop and read my Bible or say a prayer before I fall asleep, but living among a faith-filled community has truly been a blessing to me, as I know I can find rest and peace in God even when I am overwhelmed with stress. I am thankful that I have found this faith community here at Valpo, as it is what sustains me in the ups and downs of college life.
Most of you that read this may not think that college is that close to you, but time will pass quicker than you think. Juniors and seniors, keep this in your mind as you look for colleges. Do they promote faith life or are there campus ministries that you can be a part of at your college? You may not think of these things as essential requirements when choosing a college, but they are very important! And as you go through high school, actively choose to participate in worship, youth group, Godparents, FCA, etc. I have learned that faith is not a passive activity, but one that requires dedication and constant attention. So God’s peace and God bless and may you rediscover your faith once again whether it is in high school or college. See you all soon over Thanksgiving break and Go Big Red!