Tomorrow I graduate college. I feel tears stinging the back of my throat as I write this, because college hasn’t just been studying and hanging out with friends (though it involved a lot of those too). It’s been the most life-giving, heart-shaping, faith-growing experience of my life thus far.
C.S. Lewis said, “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different?” That’s college in a nutshell. I began with about three friends and am leaving with hundreds. I came to ACU with a planted faith and am leaving with one that’s been rocked and challenged. I entered freshman year giddy with anticipation for the next four years, and I simply can’t believe they’ve already flown by.
The weeks truly do have wings.
As easy as it is for me to be sentimental and sad about leaving, I have to realize what God’s doing here. We weren’t made to be in college forever—it’s a season, and my next season of life is here. Being depressed over the end of a season reveals a buried belief that God can’t and won’t make the future even better than the past. Sure, heartache over saying goodbye to something special is appropriate and normal, but we can’t let ourselves forget that He’s promised to fill us with hope and joy and love forever. And He who promises is faithful. So faithful.
My freshman year, a friend and mentor of mine pointed me to Isaiah 43:19, which says, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” I needed this verse then, and I need it now. He’s always doing something new, and that’s reason enough to not grasp so tightly to the past. I want to perceive the new things He’s bringing my way instead of always turning to look over my shoulder at what’s behind me. There’s nowhere to go but up if I continue to follow Him. Life is only beginning, and that’s exciting.
I keep thinking about a Winnie the Pooh quote, “How lucky I am—having something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” This is my hardest goodbye yet, but I’m so incredibly lucky to have it. I’m saying goodbye to college. But “college” isn’t just ACU in general—it’s so many things.
This is what my college is:
College is a campus that makes you feel alive and at home.
It’s green grass that’s watered too often, buildings that cast the longest shadows and take years to walk to the highest floor, concrete pathways flooded with students, and too few parking spaces. It’s a campus that makes your heart swell every time you drive into it after summer break. It’s a place filled with precious memories of early morning jogs, speedy walks to class, meals with friends, quiet times in shaded hideouts, and late night bike rides. It’s home, and it always will be.
College is professors who teach you more than they have to.
It’s the most brilliant people you’ve ever met. It’s wise, mature teachers who think differently than everybody else and who push you to think differently too. It’s professors who invite you into their homes and bake casseroles for you, professors who pray before your exams, professors who love the Lord even more than they love the novels and textbooks in their hands. It’s wise men and women who love whatever it is that you love and let you know that you belong.
College is experiences that paint your life with color.
It’s wearing a floor-length yellow skirt and dancing in front of the whole school alongside fifty-one of your soon-to-be best friends. It’s jumping off a canyon in Switzerland. It’s star-gazing in the country when you have a big test the next morning. It’s singing on a stage for an audience of thousands while dressed like a raindrop, and it’s spring break mission trips that melt your heart. It’s big things like traveling across Europe for four months and small things like laying in a hammock with your best friends to watch lightening during a storm.
College is a church body that ushers you to the throne of Christ.
It’s having a constant, comforting place to worship—a place that’s formed more by the people than by the building itself. It’s a gathering of believers that teaches you, inspires you, and urges you to open up the Bible for yourself and see what you really believe. It’s a family that you always have to fall back on, a steadiness in the midst of life’s chaos.
College is friends who change you.
It’s classmates that want to listen to the things you say. It’s people you can always greet as you walk around campus, people you can always eat lunch with, always catch a ride from. It’s men and women who inspire you to grow. It’s friends who pray over you and cry with you and join in when you’re making a fool of yourself. It’s people who write you notes and buy your meal when you forget your wallet, people who share your passions and truly care about you. It’s people who love you and make you better.
College is housemates who define friendship.
It’s people God places in your life because… Well, you don’t know why. You don’t deserve them, but He gave them to you anyway. It’s a girl you’ve roomed with for four years yet somehow still love to death and would trust more than anyone in the world. It’s a girl who makes you laugh hard and edifies you in ways no one else ever has, nor likely ever will. It’s a girl who shares your passion for people and places and who you always look to for stability and constant love. It’s not friends who’ve metaphorically “changed your life” but friends who truly, tangibly have changed your life for the better. And when you see their faces, you see three of the greatest manifestations of God’s love and provision in your life. It’s the people you’re going to miss most of all.
College is a relationship with God made new.
It’s experiencing a God who does. not. relent. It’s times of desperate pleading and tearful kneeling that lead to utter thankfulness. It’s moments of overwhelming, humbling gratitude that force you to raise your hands and sing. It’s a time to discover who Jesus was and is in your life, on your own, and it’s a time of immense joy.
Remember the verse in “Come Thou Fount” that says, “Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by Thy help I’ve come. And I hope by Thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home”? Though many of us might picture Scrooge when we sing “my Ebenezer,” it actually means a memorial stone. It comes from 1 Samuel 7, when God helped the Israelites. Afterwards, “Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, ’till now the LORD has helped us'” (7:12). So “raising our Ebenezer” means permanently acknowledging the help God has given us and His presence in our lives.
ACU is my memorial stone, my Ebenezer. It’s a physical landmark that will always be here to remind me of the faithfulness of God and the work He’s done in my life. It holds so many memories and testaments to the truth of God’s presence, and whenever I come back here, I will be reminded of His unchanging goodness.
“Stronger” by Hillsong runs through my head. It was a special song between my friends and me freshman year. We’d listen to it together, cry during it together—it was meaningful to us. And as I think of the words, they still carry the same meaning four years later. He is stronger than my biggest fears. He’s broken the sin that so easily entangles me. He’s saved me and risen from the grave to be Lord of my life, and He is Lord in and out of college. My prayer for my life and the lives of all of us graduating is that He would be lifted even higher in the years to come than He has been here.
So let His name be lifted higher and higher and higher…