“I wish you could know you were living in the good ole days, before you’ve left them.”
– Andy Bernard season 9 finale of The Office
Yes, break out the Kleenex. Senior year is almost over. Some are shedding tears of anxiety while others, tears of joy. Something about the end of a chapter makes you reflect on the ground covered thus far. To be clear, I won’t be sappy. I won’t throw the future under the bus or say college contained the best years of my life. The writer of Ecclesiastes says, “The fool says that former days are better than today.”
Instead, it’s helpful to think about what college was all about and, hopefully share a couple of truths. I’ll spare you the wise owl monologue. After 124 hours of a degree, four years of campus employment, three years of high involvement in BSU (for those of you wondering who I am, my fourth year was plagued by night classes), a summer missions assignment, and countless hours spent with some of the best friends I could have ever asked for, I think in 10 years I will struggle to remember most of it.
But, for the past weeks I have thought through my time and see two mountain peaks of truth in the wonderful range of college: I need the Word of God daily and I need His people around me.
A Need for God’s Word
Like many of us, I came into college with a decent grasp on the basics of the faith. I knew what the Bible was. I knew I should read it. I knew it was the Word of God.
Freshman year was a long process of figuring out that I cannot endure much without taking in the Word daily. I’m not saying I have this figured out perfectly today, yet I remember going long periods of time without opening the Word. Day to day, I didn’t see that I was empty. I still made godly friends. I still got through the honors discussion classes that challenged my faith. But I was prideful enough to trust my fumbling abilities to follow the Lord in my own power. Through different means, God showed me how ludicrous I was.
Imagine taking a sip of orange juice once a week and not consuming any other food or liquid. What would happen? You’re body would fall apart day one. You would be grumpy and hungry all day. You would be starving yourself. It’s obvious, so why do we think we can survive spiritually that way?
As I realized these things again, I jumped back and forth between guilt trips and breaks from the Word. But over time, with help, I found ways to view scripture reading not as my savior, but rather as a means to know Him. I found out that you don’t see the effects in a day. But over seasons, you look back and see how consistent time in the Word forms your heart. The Lord hasn’t left us guessing. He’s given us his Word and promises that his Spirit will lead us into the truth.
A Need for God’s People
These ideas are connected. I had to lose my spiritual independence and pride. I had taken the meeting of the bride of Christ for granted. I knew church was important and expected, but I was not overly concerned with seeking out a body to belong to. I wrongly thought BSU was enough. The Lord used BSU to encourage me and engage me in his work. BSU is where I made my friends and found a home away from home.
But the Lord didn’t save only a group of college students at Ole Miss. The Lord didn’t commission only a group of college students at Ole Miss to take the good news around the globe. The Lord didn’t say where two or three in the same exact demographic meet I will be there.
No, He said that He came after His bride. He came to build His Church and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. He came to extend grace not just to one person, family, lineage or race; He came for every tribe, language and people.
The BSU is a great means of the church to encourage and reach students, but I was forsaking the gathering of a local church. We don’t just need people around us who are just like us. We need believers who have gone before us to continue our discipleship. We need to hear the Word of God preached consistently and thoroughly. We need to worship corporately in spirit and in truth. We need to partake of the Lord’s Supper. We need to covenant together as a family promising to love and spur one another on towards good works.
I thought I knew all of those things, but once I got in and committed to a church family in Oxford, I finally began to grow in the Lord in ways I couldn’t have otherwise.
My college career wasn’t an upward trajectory to greater experiences without end each year. I had thrilling highs and devastating lows. Over the years, I went through innumerable changes and so did everything around me.
But the consistent meeting of the church enabled me to taste and see that the Lord is good in times where I couldn’t finish prayers and couldn’t focus on his Word.
Things can happen that will make you run from the Lord instead of rest in Him. In those times, the body of Christ uniquely bears your burdens with you and keeps you going.
I alluded to this earlier, but I misunderstood what lies behind these truths and that’s why I didn’t walk in them.
More accurately, I was misunderstanding a person. I was living like the Spirit was like something out of Star Wars or Dragon Ball Z. Maybe I thought of Him like something out of Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul.
I knew the doctrine of the Spirit, but I lived like he was something to tap into and wield at my convenience to empower or soothe me.
However, the Bible never lets on that the Spirit is a force at our disposal. He is referred to like wind by Jesus in John 3. He is better than having Jesus here physically in John 14-15.
It’s glorious, but we are fools to think we can grow deeper in a relationship with God while ignoring His voice and avoiding the bride He died for in order to reconcile to Himself. We will not hear him without spending time in His revealed Word, and we will not function separated from the rest of our body.
College was about a lot of things. And I will never be the same, but the Lord used it to show me the power of His Word and the peculiar blessings imparted through His people.
Austin Davis is a senior from Sumrall, Mississippi. He is an integrated marketing communications major. Over the course of his Ole Miss career, he has been a leader of discipleship ministry and has served as a summer missionary in Southeast Asia. He is a member of Grace Bible Church of Oxford.