Well, I’ve been in college for almost a semester now, and I must say, I’m sort of underwhelmed by the amount of evil here so far. The way the Christian adults in my life at home made it sound, the weather most days would be sunny with a chance of fire and brimstone. After multiple warnings about the “evils of college,” I’ve come to the conclusion that sure, there is temptation everywhere, but that’s life. Real life. No one should run from that.
You well-churched previous homeschoolers know what I’m talking about. When people in the church hear that you’re going off to college (especially a non-Christian university), it’s not uncommon to be met with stern warnings about the temptations that college has to offer. There will be drinking (gasp!). There will be drugs (no!). There will be people who don’t believe the same things as you (you’re kidding!). There will be sex (what’s that?).
If you’re like me, as these admonishments accumulate, they become just plain discouraging. Let’s pretend that every warning is a cinder block that I’m holding (and those things are freaking heavy). Every person that gives a warning, lecture, or finger wag is placing another cinder block on my stack. The stack could also include “Do This and This, Don’t Do That or That” cinder blocks. I mean, isn’t that what they’re saying, anyway?
I know people mean well, and it’s not that there isn’t a place for that. It would be foolish to ignore their wise advice. My point is this: it would have been nice for someone to say, “no matter what you do, there’s forgiveness in Christ,” rather than just, “you have to remember to stay away from temptation. There will be people doing bad things.” No kidding. I worked at a bar, for crying out loud. It’s not like I’m learning anything new. It’s almost like people are afraid to talk about mercy and forgiveness, because that allows the option of sin. It’s like the “Christ loves you” part is secondary to the “whatever you do, don’t sin” part.
So many Christian parents – or adults period – are so worried about kids losing their faith once they get to college. If they have reason to be concerned about their kid’s future spiritual status, they have no reason to think it will be any worse than their kid’s spiritual life right now.
People are so worried about the influence of other worldviews on their kids’ views and faith. Maybe, just maybe, these are things that they need to face at some point. If they stay at home or go to a Christian college, they may have “faith” simply because they’ve never been challenged. They never really had to think too deeply about it. If they end up falling away, that’s an indication that something wasn’t right in the first place. It’s not as new of a development as it may seem.
Is it really better for your kid to put on a great show of piety and fervor while secretly or unknowingly being totally spiritually screwed up? You might be surprised at how many are. But too often, in the church, people don’t realize it. A lot of kids won’t talk to anyone about their spiritual life, especially when they need someone to care the most. Trust me, I know.
Here’s the thing. Maybe Christian teenagers don’t just need to be cautioned in preparation for college. We know what sin is. A lot of times we’re broken, more aware of our sin than you could guess. Maybe what we’re really unsure of is God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness. More than once people have lectured me about all the things I need to avoid when all I really needed to hear was that God loved me.
The fact is, whether I’m in college or not, I’m going to screw up. Maybe in big ways, maybe in small ways. I am going to sin. And when I do, it’s probably not because too few old people have warned me about the dangers of college. Chances are, I will feel the guilt before you can tell me that I need to feel guilty.
The “evils” people talk about are really made up of individuals. Are we not supposed to love that atheist professor? Are we supposed to shun the couple having loud sex in the next room? Are we supposed to act like we’re on a higher level than them? I’m not talking about “loving” in a condescending way. I mean truly caring.
It’s not just about protecting ourselves. It’s about other people.
Parents, pay attention to your kids’ spiritual needs now. Trust me, we know when something’s not right inside of us. Maybe you don’t only need to warn your kid of sin. Maybe you need to remind your kid that there is grace in Christ. Why put more emphasis on sin than on mercy?
When you obsess over your kid’s spiritual life at college, who are you giving the power to – God, or sin?