personal:. Jesus, College, & the 7 Year Gap.

 

Today is strange for me, because in four days I will be a freshman in college for the first time in my life.

I never wanted to go to college. I grew up in a college town, where the town would hardly exist without the college and the median age of the entire city never grew beyond 22 years old. A somewhat progressive and changing city, with a consistent age – sort of like a real life never-never land that has access to the internet and influence of larger growing cities. College students would come and go, bright eyed, hyperactive, and slightly intimidated as they’d move into their dorm rooms at 18 years of age. Four years later, they’d leave slightly calloused and a little bitter and 22 going on 40 once their bachelors were complete. My father was an Evangelical pastor at a collegiate church for 26 years, and the amount of college students that I have met cannot be calculated. There have literally been thousands that have come and gone.

Growing up in such a town and being raised in such a fluid church setting created a rhythm to my life in a multitude of ways that I’ve been able to pinpoint:

  • Turnover of people and seasonal relationships are normal and easy for me to understand / let go of. I don’t hold on too tightly to much of anyone.
  • I consistently build relationships and seek wisdom from those older than myself,
  • I have learned there is great value in being an observer, sitting back and watching and learning from others experiences.

And also, less of a rhythm and more of a fact, I learned that I never wanted to go to college.

When I was in first grade and my brother was in 4th, he wrote a note to his teacher as a cry for help, asking how to convince his sister to stay in school (that would be me). I still have the letter he wrote. My brother loved school so much, and I simply did not. I threatened dropping out and running away from home more times than I can even count, and all before my 8th birthday.

Let’s jump a few years to high school, a whopping 7 years ago…

My junior year of high school, I got scared. I felt like I should finally grow up some, stop skipping class so much, and apply for college – because what else was I going to do? The school counselors song was getting old but also uncomfortably familiar. With the constant barrage of five year plans and weighty words about career to income ratios that they held before us with outstretched palms. As if they held the keys to the kingdom of the American Dream, just begging for our baby fat hands to grasp these keys and wield them with a warriors cry of triumph as we found ourselves submersed in the ultimate $60k/year, 2.5 child white-picket fenced yard of utopian happiness. We were lucky, right? We lived in a land full of wealth and opportunity, a place where every day foreigners died to build makeshift rafts to send their families to get a piece of our homemade apple pie, and here we were – 17 years young, bona fide American citizens, and the dream was ours. In fact, we were entitled to it.

So many of my friends, (all of my friends) jumped at the opportunity to sign their name on the dotted line and pulled tens of thousands out of the bank on loan to fulfill the dream they thought they wanted.

Honestly, I started to do it too, even though I never wanted to. However on my end, there was a huge influence by the church group I was involved with too those days, and it’s catered package that I believe is stronger than that by the media or schools that builds a picture-perfect life for you. (At least for me the influence was more powerful, as I gave more authority to church than I did to school). Their package looked scarily similar however: go to school, stay out of trouble, find a good boy who loves Jesus, have some 3rd world missionary adventures together if you feel it’s necessary, and settle down and start a God-fearing family. Invest in your church and God will invest back into you.

This is where the deviation happens for me however. My story could have been one of those straight forward stories where I did what I was told and found all those great things God had waiting for me on the other side of being obedient to the call of college. Except something about all of that made me tick, in a bad way. I noticed all my friends praying about which college to go to instead of what they should do, period. And putting God in such a box gave my skin the creepy crawlies. But I pushed that aside as much as I could, and I applied to a great Christian college up in British Columbia Canada, that had great skatepark bible studies and brothel ministries and other ‘edgy’ things I was enamored with (and a significant scholarship available for pastors kids, which I desperately needed). But, alas, I said the same prayer as everyone else, “God, if this is Your will, then accept me into this college, but if it isn’t, then don’t.”

It’s a dumb prayer, I have to say. Practically, what school isn’t going to admit a student who meets their requirements and can bring tens of thousands of dollars into their program and economy? It’s pretty simple, because it’s business. Which makes that prayer a very ignorant one, and made me an all-too-trusting kid.

And here is where that deviation wedged itself in – while that prayer is admittedly rather stupid, and any college would accept most any student, something happened to me. I prayed that prayer and trusted God’s ‘goodness’ would keep me from being accepted were that the greatest good, and alas!! I was accepted (of course I was accepted). But I couldn’t get it out of my head that maybe this wasn’t right, even though God could have just supernaturally intervened and rewritten my acceptance letter before its arrival to my mailbox.

There are a handful of these sorts of deviations in my story so far. Where I’m headed one direction and then things just shift drastically due to a single encounter or epiphany. And it’s in these bits, these deviations that lead me into the deepest places with God, into the greatest realizations of His goodness and love, because He speaks out when He didn’t necessarily need to.

(I know God speaks to people differently, or not at all. I know there are debates and theology and rights and wrongs and whatnots. And I could expand on my personal experience and history with this at another time, but for the sake of attempted brevity, I’ll ask we just carry on with the story as is, and as it happened for me.)

I can’t remember the exact place, but I do remember this: I couldn’t get that prayer out of my head. The one where I asked him “which” instead of “what”. Where I asked “either/or” instead of “anything”. So I stopped, I backpedaled, and I took a mulligan on my original prayer. And this time, I asked what. I said “God, I will do anything. College, missionary, McDonalds employee, prostitute, I don’t care. What do You want?” and instead of moving forward in silence with what I had been taught was best, He suddenly spoke. “If you go to school, I will bless it. But if you don’t, your next four years will be filled with adventure.”

And those were the only words I needed to withdraw my enrollment into college.

From there I graduated high school, and the next seven years looked like this: I moved to Australia. From Australia I spent 6 weeks in the middle east. I hitched around Hawaii on a one way plane ticket with no plan b and only a couple hundred bucks to my name. I moved into an RV in New Orleans to volunteer with Hurricane Katrina relief work, and I moved into the upper 9th ward in New Orleans and discovered Bonhoeffer’s Life Together further and finally broke and understood my extreme need for companionship that I could no longer ignore. I evacuated Hurricane Gustav and slept in a gymnasium in Alabama. I moved to Seattle and learned I could not force my hand hard enough to make it when ‘making it’ was defined by others. I moved in with my grandparents and watched my grandpa die. I found significant responsibility in Portland and negotiated a $10k raise at the same time I decided chasing paychecks and promotions didn’t matter to me.

Through all the adventure, and heart ache, and penniless pockets, through the trauma, and thrill, and inexpressible moments I experienced, I learned more than I ever could have sitting in a classroom with other likeminded kids from other likeminded backgrounds. My grandpa used to look at me while we’d sit around the table with every other college educated graduate in my family (which is all of them) and he’d say, “You and I, little one. We just went through the school of hard knocks.” That we did, Grandpa. That we did.

This was not the only reason I didn’t attend college fresh out of high school. Besides my soapbox insistence to stay out of debt (which I have maintained into my mid 20s – it’s possible!!), there were a host of other things that hindered me from going. And I never wanted to waste my time and money doing something that I wasn’t sure of.

Fast forward now to today, and here I am: 25 years old, sitting on my couch in my apartment which is much too large, looking at laptops and backpacks because on Monday I go to school for the first time in 7 years to get an associates in graphic design.

‘What does it mean?!’ I really don’t know. Maybe it’s a (hopefully) gentle reminder to the 18 year olds who are just moving into their dorm rooms, or maybe it’s a reminder to me that I am headed in the right direction. The great hindsight that I had for when I was 18 I don’t have right now for this adventure at 25. Which is probably because it’s hindsight.

What I do know is this though:
I am excited to go to school. I am excited to learn, and to pick people’s brains, and to give all of these ideas and visions an escape route through skilled hands after so long of being trapped inside of me. I don’t feel like I’m selling out, and I am definitely not going to school because I didn’t know what else to do. I am excited to work less and simplify my life and living expenses, to have more time to be involved in my friends ventures in the community, to put on art shows and to run as fast and as hard as I can in as fun a manner as is possible.

I think an overarching theme in my stories however, is how much I feel like God is greater and more Good than anything else on this earth, and that even in those times when I try whole heartedly to pursue Him, even when it’s in the wrong direction, He is faithful to come back and realign. And I feel like maybe that’s a reminder I need right now, an assurance that no matter where I go and what I do, it never changes Him.

The last 7 years have been jam packed with adventure, and it makes me excited to continue and put one foot in front of the other every day and find the awesomeness that the next 7 years will bring.

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2 Responses to “personal:. Jesus, College, & the 7 Year Gap.”

  1. you are awesome. love getting to watch you go through this new transition. i know you will flourish and find a lot of joy/growth.

    get to it!

  2. karli on September 19th, 2013 at 8:22 pm
  3. you are way too great. i love that you’re apart of it too!! <3

  4. kaarin on September 19th, 2013 at 8:32 pm

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