I just want to let the students back at my Christian high school (and any student graduating from a Christian institution) what it’s like going from a blessed, beautiful Christian education to a Christ-less school.
In short, it’s not what you think.
I know what you’re expecting and that you’re longing for it. I know to some of you, Christian education feels too small and intrusive. It’s not “real” education. And besides, if you want to be a real, active Christian, you should be out in public schools, right?
You’re longing for that “freedom” that comes with a Christ-less education. It will be open, loose. Less rules will bind you.
For me, I was looking forward to wider horizons and chances for my faith to be tested. I got it, but it wasn’t what I expected.
In Christian schools, it’s easier to stay “good”. The opportunities to stray are not as easy to come by. You have to look, and be sneaky, because if you’re caught, you will be disciplined. Not to mention word will travel fast to the rest of the school and your parents, who are paying good money to send you to this school. So choosing a bad path is not that easy and not even tempting, because it’s just not always there.
But when you’re high school and college age, the rebellious attitude feels built in sometimes, especially if your faith isn’t strong.
So when you enter a college where you’re surrounded by non-Christians, you’ve got the space to let the rebellion burst free. Temptation is readily available for indulgence. But you’re using this opportunity to witness, right?
For me, since I simply had no desire to become close to anyone who would lead me into temptation, and because I don’t live in a dorm and only have class 3 days a week, it wasn’t that bad. But I felt the change in other ways. I made myself available to those around me for discussion about my faith. I was open about it from the start, excited to share. I made some friends. People found me approachable, I guess, and I felt good. I didn’t have any close, true friends, and that made it very hard for me because I battled loneliness. But I had a mission, a purpose – to show the world my Savior – and that kept me strong. However, I noticed my attitude becoming like those I surrounded myself with, even like those I didn’t talk to. I just was surrounded by negative conversation. Complaining, cynicism, cussing, hatred, tolerance of sin. I’m already enough of a pessimist, and this just brought me further into that bad attitude. I was soon complaining alongside them, encouraging it even, and just being all-around negative. Although they never left my lips, cuss words more easily, naturally slipped through my thoughts when I became frustrated. This all circled back to disappointment in myself for letting myself become this way, and that disappointment began the negativity all over again.
For you, it might be different. It was easier to say no to drinking, drugs, sex, and more in the sheltered Christian school. You had boundaries enforced for you, however much you hated them. But when you enter college, will you have an easier time giving in?
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (I Peter 5:8.)
Then another trial came. My mission was being taken from me and the loneliness brought to a deeper level. Seeing that I wasn’t about to be quiet about my faith and that I would not give into sin without a fight, I was attacked from another angle. Those that I considered my “friends” in college – those I’d talk with and sit by and even enjoy company with – began to distance themselves. I don’t remember doing anything to trigger this.
I tried to be the best friend I could be, and I wasn’t fake with them, either. I was real and open about how I was feeling when they asked. I wouldn’t give forth a false “joy” because that’s expected of a Christian. When I was hurting and they asked if I was okay, I’d be honest and tell them I wasn’t. When I did have joy, I’d share it. Long story short, I was, well, real. And I genuinely enjoyed having their company and getting to know them.
But they became quiet. I began to be ignored and pushed away. I was alone before, but now?
See? I could hear the Devil whispering. You’re not worth their time. You’re just too unlikeable. Maybe it’s your looks or what you wear. Or maybe it’s your enthusiasm for what you’re learning. Maybe it’s just you – you’ve never really fit in. Who knows, it could be everything. Whatever it is, you don’t have any more friends. Your true friends aren’t available for you to spend time with. Your new friendships here are dying. You’re struggling to keep your faith strong, so God can’t be near. And now, you can’t witness to those people. What’s your purpose?
You are very much alone.
Now, here is what I want to say to you. Moving on to college, Christian or not, opens up two paths: the path God calls you to follow, or the path of “freedom” and sin. However much you may dislike being “trapped” in a Christian school now, please, please, realize the gift it is. And take full advantage of it. Strengthen your faith during this time. Make it solid enough to withstand the changes that are coming. Learn that Christ is enough, that He is true joy and His way is best.
I pray you don’t choose the path that leaves Christ. If you do, it isn’t easy to come back out, and you won’t want to. It is easy to reject holiness when immersed in a sinful life. But you will not have joy.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” (Proverbs 16:25)
If you choose the path of Christ, prepare yourself for rejection, especially at a non-Christian college. But know it’s worth it. You’ll be rewarded. You will live a full, joyful, meaningful life. I don’t know how else to say it, but the eternal rewards are worth so much more than the temporary, self-destructive, earthly pleasures. Follow the way of the God who invented true pleasure, deeper than any person or thing can provide.
“[Jesus said,] ‘If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: “A servant is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: “They hated me without reason.”‘” (John 15:18-24.)
No matter what, no matter how you feel or what you’re told, you’re never, ever alone.
Actively strengthen your faith and prepare. Choose God. Expect rejection, but rejoice, for God will give you joy and peace that doesn’t make sense when looking at what you are going through (“peace that passes understanding”).
And best of all, He will be waiting with eternal rewards and His perfect, incredible love. “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Amen.
UPDATE: Check out this awesome podcast on staying strong in the faith in college from Desiring God, John Piper’s ministry website: Behind the Blog: Fresh Advice for the New Semester