… and, really, to all freshmen who are attending a private Christian college.
I could not be more thrilled for you to have chosen a Christian community like ours the way that you did. Some of you knew you wanted to attend from the moment you stepped onto campus. For others, your campus visit was like a seed of possibility planted in your heart that eventually grew to a full-grown decision. Some of you are making huge sacrifices to be at Northwestern. Some of your parents are.
While I would never tell someone that the college years are the BEST four years of your life (life keeps getting better and better … or at least, it should!), they are definitely some of the most important and unique years of your life. You may never again have the opportunity to live and learn and work and grow in a community of believers that will foster your spiritual growth and academic prowess the way you do in these four years. For some of you, this semester might be all you have.
So please cherish it.
Look, I know that life is still life and that homework can be lame and that you’re not expected to love everything, but I will tell you this: there will likely come a time in your life when you will look back at your UNW years and think, I wish I had been more intentional.
You will probably never again have the opportunity to hear from amazing men and women of God– not to mention international leaders, public speakers, theologians, comedians, and scholars– every single morning. Listen well. Put your phones away. When I was listening in chapel the other morning, I kept thinking, If I were to do this all over again, I would eat this up. Truth on a spoon. And yet, I remembered myself as a college freshman, thinking so differently about those expository days in chapel.
Get to know your professors. They are some of the smartest people you are ever going to meet in your life, and you get these four years to sit at the feet of Socrates, so to speak. Listen well!
Pour effort into your friendships. Some of these may last into eternity. I thank God for Tracy and Megs and Cindy and so many others who are still my favorite people, still making new memories with me, all these years later.
Give each other grace. Please. Ten years from now, your world is likely going to have so many more shades of gray in it and you don’t want to look back and say that your black-and-whiteness didn’t show people Christ. (In fact, some of you probably won’t be able to even accept the grayness of that last sentence. I hope you will one day!)
Do things with excellence. Not to get an A. Not to impress your professors. But because your God has given you gifts with which to honor him.
Seek out a mentor– an upperclassman, a professor, a staff member.
Be vulnerable. Seek out health and healing while you’re still young. Schedule a visit to Counseling Services if you need to. You’re going to kick yourself later when you realize you could have gotten free therapy but now that you’re graduated, you have to pay an arm and a leg and offer your firstborn child as collateral for counseling. You’ll be kicking yourself too that you could have started that journey toward wholeness so much sooner.
And yes (I’m gonna get myself in trouble for this, but …): skip class every once in a while to lie on the campus green with your friends and talk about theology and who is cute in your Western Civ class and what you want to do with your lives.
The entire community is so glad you’ve joined us. Make the most of it. Suck out the marrow, friends.