I’ve been giving advice about starting university for over twenty-five years, but this year is different, much different. The rules have changed and the stakes are higher, the pathway is familiar and also uncertain. This year is different. It isn’t only the students who are moving towards fresher’s week with trepidation, I am also feeling their excited anxiety like never before. This year is different, not only because of COVID’s shadow and disruptive tendencies, this year is different because I’m emotionally invested like never before. This year my eldest daughter is starting university for the first time. So, what advice would I give?
Hidden in the ancient wisdom of Ecclesiastes is a famous passage that starts with the words; “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). I believe this is a generation born for glorious purpose and that purpose starts now. Much of it is hidden from sight but the foundations for a life of fullness and fruitfulness are being laid. Starting university this year, you can trust that God has good plans for you, has gone before you and is calling you into a wonderful faith adventure. So, what is it time for?
1. Time embrace new responsibility and adulthood
“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.” (1 Corinthians 13:11)
It is time to leave behind childhood, the cares of comparison, the labels that don’t fit with who you are becoming. Adulthood is here and it is a choice to enter in to the new challenges, opportunities and responsibilities that come with putting away childish things. Grab them with both hands and seize the new day, knowing that you are sent and are blessed. Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’, and risk saying ‘yes’ to more things.
2. Time to deepen spiritual foundations
“Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.” (Ephesians 3:17)
The universe we live in is first of all built on spiritual foundations and governed by spiritual laws, everything that is seen and unseen is subject to them. The most important choice you can make in your life is to daily deepen your relationship with Jesus. When this happens you will be confident of your place in the universe, secure in your identity, wise with heaven’s perspective and strong in God’s love. Prioritise personal devotion like never before and for help with personal devotion rhythms consider using Bible In One Year, Lectio365 or YouVersion. Also, fuel your personal devotion by rooting into a church community, one that will invest in your discipleship and encourage you in your witness. Connect with churches now in your university location through Student Linkup.
3. Time to choose friendships carefully
“Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family” (Proverbs 18:24 MSG)
We are made for friendship and it is important to think about who will be your close friends at university in what can be large network of relationships. Friends who care enough about you and will speak truth to you even when it is uncomfortable and risks offence. Friends who will guard you and provide much needed accountability that steers you away from harm and towards your calling. Friends who help guide, who listen and offer counsel and act as signposts to life in the Kingdom. Friend who call out the gold, help you believe in yourself and all that God has put in you. Let me encourage you to ask God for those close friends, to choose your friends carefully and to be the friend you want to have.
4. Time to invest in your gifting and strengths
“Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” (2 Timothy 1:6 NKJV)
God has put so much in you, much more than you realise although you may well have an inkling that you are made for wonderful works. You have a vital Kingdom contribution to make that is specifically designed by God for you, things planned in advance (Ephesians 2:10). This includes all the spiritual and natural gifting and all that crosses over, so start now, start where you are and rejoice in small beginnings. Give yourself to people and situations that will stretch and hone your talents and gifting. The world needs your contribution now and in the future so be bold and courageous and stir up the gifts God has given you.
5. Time to pursue calling
“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1)
You can start university confident that God is with you and has designed a race only you can run. COVID has changed some things, but fundamentally it cannot be blamed on who you are becoming, that is all down to you – your mentality, your responses, your choices etc. You are not a victim, so don’t act like one. God will give you all you need so the way to run your race is by keeping your eyes on Jesus, facing down fears and living big. Remember you are made and called for glorious purpose. May you know what God thinks about you at that form the core of your identity.