Choose this day whom you will serve. (Joshua 24:15)
High school graduation is a rite of passage unlike any other. You move from being treated like a child (legally) to being counted an adult, both in society and in any academic setting you might enter. Colleges aren’t even allowed to discuss your grades with your parents apart from your consent. Childhood is over. Adulthood beckons. How should you respond to the blessing and challenge?
1. Own Your Faith.
If you come from a Christian home, you have benefited tremendously from a host of supportive circumstances (household rules, numerous protections, church life). Testing awaits as you enter the world. It won’t be enough to ride the coat tails of your parents’ faith. If you’re not sure about Christianity, now is the time to settle the matter (Ecclesiastes 12:1). Christianity is a faith unlike any other because it’s based on historical events that were verifiable to thousands of people in Christ’s day (1 Corinthians 15:3–6, 12–14) — some of whom died for what they would have known to be false, had it been false. If you have doubts, ask away. The existence of God, the reliability of the Bible, the resurrection of Jesus, Jesus being the only way to God — there is a wealth of material which addresses these and other questions.
But do you want to base your life on Jesus Christ? You’ll soon encounter new opportunities to misuse God’s good gifts in ways that seem alluring — that seem to offer immediate pleasure. Will you believe the lie that God is a cosmic killjoy, out to rob you from experiencing the good things of life (Genesis 3:6)? Or will you trust that the One who made you knows best, that his rules are an expression of his love, and that his ways lead to your greatest happiness (Psalm 16:11)?
2. Own Your Relationships.
The Christian faith is lived out in community. So you’ll need to find a good church. Somewhere you can worship, learn, grow, and serve. Somewhere you can form friendships and where you can be a friend. Look at a few church websites before you leave home. Check out their beliefs, listen to their sermons, and be aware of their ministries. Make church attendance a priority early. It’s a harder habit to form later.
At college, the easiest friendships aren’t always the best. To become wise, you need to walk (or do life) with the wise (Proverbs 13:20). Look for others who share your commitment to the things of God and faithfully invest in them. Relational evangelism is worth pursuing, especially at college, but make sure you also nurture friendships that strengthen your faith (Proverbs 27:17). We’re commanded to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13–16) — which presupposes we are salt and light. To make a difference in the world we must be different than the world. Holiness in lifestyle, combined with a gracious demeanor, provide a winsome alternative to the wasteland of hedonism and materialism that are rampant on college campuses and youth culture in general.
3. Own Your Decisions.
Assessing situations, weighing alternatives, and thinking critically are like using muscles. Flabbiness comes from disuse; strength comes through practice. The next few years are full of choices — which college (or trade) to pursue, what to study, how to pay for it, and more. It might be nice if God spoke with an audible voice at each crossroads, but that’s not been my experience. We should pray (James 1:5). We should seek counsel from trustworthy people who know us (Proverbs 15:22). We should consider where we’ve been successful and what activities we enjoy, as these point to where, over time, we might be most useful in this world for the good of others and the glory of God.
Panicked that you’ll miss God’s will? God wants us to follow him more than we do. His moral will is revealed in the Bible. His sovereign will is revealed as we live it. So make the best decisions you can based on sound judgment, accept the consequences, learn from any missteps, and trust God to shower you with mercy and goodness (Psalm 23:6). With God no path is without difficulty and no path is without blessing.
Congratulations on your graduation. Godspeed in the days ahead. Grace be with you to the end.