Long time no see on the blog and I have some truth to share with you. So get ready for a good one. This space and time away from the blog has allowed me to let God speak into my life, convict me in the right ways, and write a story on my heart for all of you to hear.
If you don’t know, I’m a college student. This year I’m a junior, wow that’s so crazy, and with all the trials of freshman year, and doing class online, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve had the amazing opportunity to meet real and genuine people, and some of our conversations have been so troubling. College is a difficult place.
So, as college students, what do we do with that? How do we handle all the overwhelming tasks? Meeting new friends? Getting involved? Finding our purpose? Taking care of our mental health, our physical health? It’s starts by addressing our fear and learning to jump over that barrel. Once we get to the root of our roadblocks, we’re able to walk with confidence on campus and create a life God desires for us to live.
The College Christian
Maybe you’re reading this as a student who entered college strong in their faith? Maybe you’re just beginning to wonder what it looks like to walk with the Lord? Maybe you really aren’t a christian at all, but you find yourself struggling to adjust to the changes that college has brought?
I have one story. I can’t relate to every individual who comes to this little area of the internet for advice, but I can share with you my own struggles and personal experiences. So, I hope you don’t mind if I get a little vulnerable with you.
What is it really like being a christian in college? Do I still get to have fun? Do I mess up? I’ll answer all of those questions for you in a later blog post, but what I really want to talk about here today is the struggle I faced as a college student who didn’t really know what it meant to walk with the Lord. I was a new christian when I started college and I believed in God, but I wasn’t really sure what it meant to follow Him. So, let me make it really simple for any of you who are in the same boat I was…
So, if the situations you are in, or the people you spend time with aren’t providing you with peace, then the decisions you’re making aren’t reflecting God’s will for your life. Truly following God, will only be met with peace. I desire for every college student to feel that kind of freedom. I desire for you to feel completely confident in who you are as a child of God, as a broken person who is forgiven, as a student who has so much to learn.
You’re probably thinking, Ashley, that’s great, but I’m still struggling and I don’t know what to do about it. Don’t worry, I’m going to walk you through some practical ways we can work to overcome those fears and the new life changes that come with being a college student. I just wanted you to first understand that being a christian in college can be challenging, but it is ultimately the most rewarding.
Addressing the Fears
I’m a college student, and I know firsthand the things we struggle with on a daily basis. If we want to begin creating the college experience of our dreams, we have to first take some time to figure out what’s holding us back. So, allow me to share with you some of the lies I was telling myself freshman year.
Stop that right now! The things that you see online are often far from the truth. All the photos you see of people and their friends at football games, parties, etc. mean absolutely nothing. True genuine friendships are created behind the camera. It involves a lot of hard work and it’s not easy.
Is it just me or does it seem like we’re all just secretly in pursuit of this “group” of friends we can do everything with? The media has definitely made it seem like real friendships can’t happen between just two people, but involve a small group that does life together. I often felt like I didn’t have friends at college simply because I didn’t have a group. Individual friendships are important, don’t dismiss them.
Just because you did terrible on the first chemistry exam and your table partner got a 100 doesn’t mean you aren’t smart. Your first few bad grades don’t mean you should suddenly consider switching majors and just give up on your dreams. All good things are going to take hard work. Just give yourself some grace and learn how to improve. College requires a lot of trial and error and the things you understand and excel at, other people may not. Do NOT determine your own worth based on others achievements.
This may not be one every college student struggles with and many of you could say I shouldn’t think this. The thing is, there are a lot of really pretty girls and really good looking guys in college. It can be really challenging to wrestle with this idea that we don’t measure up. For me it was the style. There seems to be such a specific clothing style for girls and I often felt I was living on the outside. I had the things I liked to wear and it just didn’t seem to fit. So, I found myself wondering if guys would even find me attractive, and that was a lie from the enemy.
I don’t know what it is about the fast paced life that we college students live, but I always feel behind. I feel like I’m behind in my studying, my extracurricular activities, my start on graduate school requirements. Whatever it may be, it always seems like there’s someone out there who’s doing it better and faster than you. The thing is they are, but that doesn’t automatically put you behind.
I believed this lie for a long time. I thought that maybe since I wasn’t making friends, and didn’t feel at home I just wasn’t meant to be a college student at all. I thought I just didn’t have what it took. There must be something wrong with me, but college just requires patience. We have to learn to be patient with ourselves and give ourselves time to really get used to this new way of living.
I believed this lie for a long time, friends. High school conditions us to check these boxes to prepare for college applications. We have to do community service work, get good grades, be president of a club, etc. We begin to believe that our success and our key to getting into college comes from these things we’re doing. College can seem like a repeat of that if you’re looking to go to graduate school. It seems like you have to get so many shadowing hours, volunteer time, campus involvement, etc. You don’t have to do any one thing to be a successful student, you just have to do the things you’re passionate about, and do them well.
These are all lies. None of those things define me. None of those things should be allowed to steal from my college experience, but they do. College, just like life, is uniquely lived by each of us. This means that each of us is going to have different college experiences. There will be things I get to enjoy that maybe don’t bring you joy at all, and that’s okay. This is the one time in your life you’re allowed to step outside of your little check boxes and create one of your own.
Overcoming the Fears
I’m going to be honest, it took me a long time to finally overcome some of these lies. Once you reach a place of understanding, even then, it takes work every single day to remind yourself of the truths that actually do define your life.
God desires for us to live in community (Romans 12:4-5). If that is truly a desire of His heart, He is not going to leave you alone. All those people you see hanging out in community means nothing. Those people may have community, but they may not know what it looks like to have true fellowship. True friendship is one in which we bear each other’s burdens and forgive one another for wrongs (Colossians 3:13).
I challenge you to be patient. It took a long time before I was able to see the amazing people God has blessed me with at Clemson. I also recommend reading the book Messy, Beautiful Friendship by Christine Hoover. It radically changed my view on friendship.
I’m an introvert and for a long time I read stuff like this and thought my personality would make it impossible to ever have friends. I let the advice fly over my head because I believed it just didn’t apply to me. I’m telling you IT APPLYS TO YOU! You are worthy of friendship. You are worthy of love. You are worthy of all these things.
A group of friends does not equal friendship. Friendship comes in so many different forms. Those people God is placing in your life matter. Don’t dismiss people because they don’t fit into the idea of friendship society has placed in your mind. True friendships take work, and require vulnerability. Those are things that can be difficult to achieve in group settings.
I want you to stop for a second and think of all the individual people you have in your life right now. I’m sure you’ll quickly realize you have so many opportunities for friendships. The question is are you taking advantage of the people God is placing in front of you? Are you choosing to build those relationships?
Stop comparing your test scores to your friends. Stop letting your grades define you. There are a lot of people in college who let success define them. Achieving good grades is important to them because their identity rests on it. That’s not the case for you and me. Our identity is not rooted in our success, it is not rooted in our grades, it is not rooted in these worldly things, but is rooted in God. You don’t have to be the smartest one in the room. All that matters is that you try your best.
I challenge you to wake up everyday with the best attitude. Set goals for yourself and try to stick to them. If you don’t do so well on the first exam of the year. Learn from your mistakes and try to study a new way or get help where needed. It’s okay to ask for help. If a B is the best you can do when you’re trying your best, then that’s all that matters.
Sweet friend, it’s never going to be easy to not compare ourselves to someone else. The key isn’t to stop comparing yourself, the key is to recognize the lie and replace it with the truth. You were created by God, every trait hand-crafted to perfection. You may not have the same style as everyone else. You may not be as fit as all those other girls, but what’s on the outside doesn’t matter. We weren’t all meant to be copies of each other, so let’s stop trying to be.
1 Samuel 16:7 is one of my favorite verses to remind myself of when I feel like I’m not skinny enough, pretty enough, fashionable enough, etc. “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart (ESV)”.
God has each of our lives planned out to the very second. He knows how it will all unfold and He’s never going to give us something we’re not ready to receive. Some of us move slower and need time before He can reveal His plans.
A great example of this: Freshman year, I felt extremely pressured to get involved in research because it seemed like that’s what everyone else was doing. I thought in order to be on track with the rest of my class, I had to be doing research I didn’t even like. I looked for some labs but found none. Flash forward to this past summer, I was working as a camp counselor for summer scholars and got to know the professor really well. I ended up creating a great relationship with her, while also getting to do research that really interests me.
I’m not trying to brag at all. I want you to see that if I was to get involved in research freshman year because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do, I never would’ve had the opportunity I did this summer. God knew this. He knew I needed to wait for His timing, and in the end it would be so much better.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be going into a lot more detail on all of these and sharing from personal experience. I know you’re all just dying to hear my college stories. I truly want to dive deeper with all of you and share personal stories so you can see I’m just a regular college student like you. We all struggle, no matter what stage of life we’re in and it’s so important to recognize that, so we can learn and grow from them.
Let’s fill up the comment section with some other truths we can remember when facing these lies from the enemy. I’ve got some big news coming for all of you very soon. Be sure to sign up for my email list so you never miss a post or the good news!!