Surviving Your Freshman Year of College

Written by  Jana Lusk Monday, 24 September 2012 03:02

“Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.” JEREMIAH 18:6

Reflecting on my freshman year in college, I can’t remember a time in my life in which I struggled, worried, laughed, matured, and enjoyed myself as much as I did. In short, my transition into college was a very testing time for me during which time I learned and grew more than I ever have in my walk with God. For this reason, my freshman year became the best year of my life. Like a potter at his wheel, I was molded and shaped by God.

As students, since we are still young and malleable, God can shape us into whatever he wants us to be, but this is not always pleasant experience. Still, I learned great lessons since entering college nearly 18 months ago. I’ve realized a lot about myself that I would not have otherwise seen, and for this, I am grateful. Regardless, the trials, challenges and character-weaknesses, be assured of this: the best is yet to come! God can’t wait to reveal his plan for each of us during our college years and farther down the road!

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the
land the LORD your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12

I applied to one school during my senior year of high school, and by God’s grace, I was accepted into Colorado State University. The summer before my first year of college, I was itching to move out. I wanted to be out on my own, apart from my parents. And, as a result, I realize looking back that I pushed away my family. I wish that I had recognized that my parents were also going through their own transition with my leaving for college, which was very difficult for them.

Consequently, one of my biggest regrets in my first year of college was the lack of communication with my parents. In my first semester of college, I only called my mom and dad when I needed something from them. This hindered our relationship and hurt their feelings. During my second semester, I corrected my attitude and called my parents periodically just to talk and let them know how much I missed and loved them. I chose to honor my mom and dad. I had forgotten that a large part of me being able to fly was because of them. Instead, I had been so desperate to fly out from under their wing,

With each day that passes, I am made more aware of how truly amazing my parents are. Without them, I would not have survived my first year of college. If I could do it all over again, I would be more sensitive to their feelings, instead of having resisted their affection and concern for me.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24

After I had packed my life into the trunk of our Toyota Rav4, unpacked my life into a dorm room almost as small as our car trunk, and kissed my parents goodbye, I realized that rules no longer existed. Besides breaking the law, I could do whatever I wanted to, whenever I wanted to. Now, this was a very scary thing for me to realize, especially since I had been a kingdom kid my entire life.

Before college, I almost always had someone reminding me to study, eat healthy, and have my quiet times. But once I got to college, I was on my own with every decision up to me. No one else was going to make any for me. And the amount of work I put into things was directly proportional to the reward I would reap from them. If I chose to miss class, eat pizza all week, and skip a few quiet times then my grades dropped, my waistline expanded, and my relationship with God weakened, respectively. But once I embraced discipline and applied it to every area of my life, my grades improved, my waistline diminished (a little), and my love for God deepened more than it ever had because I was working hard for it. I realized that in all areas of my life, I needed to run as if I were in race.

Discipline has been one of the greatest and most rewarding lessons for me. My date book became an effective tool that I learned to use. At the beginning of my week I would set aside some alone time to just relax and plan my entire week, including my times with God. This way, I was ensured that I had time with Him, while still keeping up with my schoolwork and my relationships. Discipline is a hard lesson to learn when you are on your own, but essential for survival in college!

“He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion
of fools suffers harm.” Proverbs 13:20

Another lesson I learned in my first year of college was the importance of relationships. Whether it’s on an individual basis (such as with your roommate) or on a group level (such as within your ministry), relationships can make or break your freshman year. My relationships thrived when I adopted a sponge-like attitude. My whole goal, no matter with whom I was with, was to soak up as much wisdom as I could from that person. This proved especially important when interacting with my new ministry.

Because we moved so much during my childhood, I learned that each campus ministry has certain characteristics that make it distinctive and special. My ministry at CSU has quite a unique personality. And I love it for that reason. Still, I needed to adjust to it.

Before college, I had my own idea of what a campus ministry should be like, but I later discovered what matters the most is the ministry’s focus on God. How do we soak in all that we can from our ministry? A great way to do this (as well as to maintain your spiritual walk with God) is to go to every event planned by your ministry, even if it isn’t necessarily “spiritually” focused. This choice helped me to meet with sisters in my ministry regularly, and get to know them deeper. Being aggressive about getting with my female ministry leader also helped improve my college experience. I came to the conclusion that she was my biggest spiritual resource within my ministry, and that it was my responsibility to initiate our one-on-one times together.

As a disciple regulating who you are spending time with on campus is so important. Most of the friends I made on campus were either already disciples, or people who I reached out to. I am so thankful for the wisdom and discernment in the brothers and sisters I have grown close to this year. Their partnership has been invaluable to me.

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:3

Having new responsibilities was hard work, but it came with the freedom to choose where I wanted my life to go. As a result, new and unexpected dreams for my life sprouted. For five years prior to entering college, I had been dreaming about traveling to Siberia to further the kingdom of God overseas. Once I moved out on my own, I quickly realized that with some hard work, I could be whatever I wanted to be. I could do whatever I wanted to do. My dreams for God were truly my own and not fully dependent on my parents or my ministry structure. Realizing this was a bit overwhelming as I was still a young, inexperienced and poor college student. Yet, I had a Bible and a crazy passion for Siberia and its people.

What could I do? How would someone like me ever be useful in the mission field, and even if I was needed, how would I ever raise enough money to go to Siberia? I had to surrender my life to God and pray that He would direct my steps. I took this opportunity to throw caution to the wind and pray as specifically and dangerously as I could. I prayed about when, where, and how I would get to Siberia. I prayed about who would go with me and how many people we would see baptized into Christ. I prayed for financial, spiritual, and emotional strength. I prayed that my parents, and most importantly, God would be 100% behind me. God answered every single prayer that I prayed. Even before my trip began, God displayed his power and sanctity through prayer. I realized that my prayers are more than just a few words spoken in desperation or exaltation. Rather, prayer is a mighty weapon, one that molded my faith, gave me the desires of my heart and protected my relationship with God.

Prayer is the key in dreaming for God.

Only three months out from my scheduled departure to Siberia, in spite of everything, I was lacking sufficient funding for my trip. Then, a generous relative sent a sizeable check that helped me secure the finances I still needed. I couldn’t believe that I was really going to Russia! I imagined the day of Pentecost with thousands of souls being saved, and thought that this was going to be re-enacted during my trip. I would come to find out that sometimes God answers our heart’s desires in different ways than we would hope or plan.

In Krasnoyarsk, there was a day it poured rain from sun up to sun down. The fact that it is illegal for foreigners to proselytize inside public buildings forced us outside. We wanted to serve this small church of only 27 members, so we continued to share our faith though we were soaked to the bone. The last thing the fashion-conscience Russians want to do was to speak with drenched Americans who were sharing their faith without umbrellas in the pouring rain. Could this possibly be God’s dream for me or a bad joke lived out in this typically sunny, beautiful city? We had to rally together to pray to have Jesus-like hearts. That day was a long, miserable one. Yet, this experience taught me perseverance and commitment to God’s purposes, even if I was not happy or having fun. The whole experience required me to deny myself, just like Jesus commanded.

That day, we did not meet anyone who wanted to hear the gospel. However, God was glorified. Had we not persevered through that tough day we would not have been back out sharing our faith in subsequent days. Within a few days we met a girl named Dasha. She seemed more interested in practicing her English with us than in changing her life. While we were speaking with Dasha her friend, Lena, stopped to say hello to her. Lena was a conservative Russian Orthodox who was seeking to please God with all of her heart. Lena began to study the Bible on a nearly daily basis. Lena became a Christian after we returned to the States. Dasha, however, was not willing to give up some of her worldly ways at the time. Lena kept persevering with Dasha, and in recent weeks, she has begun to study the Bible once again, this time with a willing and eager heart. I trust that God will continue to bless the dream that he put on my heart for Russia and its people. I also believe that God will bless the lessons of self-denial and perseverance that he taught me while living out my Russian dream.

As I look back on the six weeks that I spent in Russia, my heart quiets and my soul becomes still within me. God’s hand moved in miraculous ways to get me on that plane to Siberia. From the moment He planted the dream within me in the summer of 2005, to the day I landed in Moscow, in June of 2011, God showed His infinite wisdom and faithfulness in regard to His plans for my life. If He could do that in just six years, how much more could He do with the remaining years of life that He has given me? Since starting my journey through college in 2010, I have continued to learn that God has a plan for each and every person, including myself.

In the past, I had been tempted to feel as if one wrong move on my part would ruin God’s plan and leave me unhappy and unsuccessful in my life. God had some very loving sisters show me that this viewpoint was completely prideful. If God wants something to happen, He will make it happen, period. The only thing that could change God’s plan is if we choose to ignore his sovereignty and the path to our own future.

I am so thankful for every lesson I learned in my first year of college. Each one moved me further in my walk with God and in my relationships. I am so grateful for my ministry, my mentor, and my parents, without whom I would not have made to this point. But most of all, I’m thankful to God, who carried, and continues to carry, me through every storm and celebration.

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