Alright. Truth talk.
Staying strong in your faith in college is hard. Staying strong in your faith at a large, public college is harder. Staying strong in your faith at a large, public college known for its reputation as a party school is, as you can imagine, a bit of a challenge. I’m not going to lie, it is really frickin’ hard sometimes.
Now, I’m not off in skimpy clothes raging every weekend. Or any weekend, actually. And because I’m not, it’s easy to feel like I stick out like a sore thumb here. It is far too easy to fall into the trap of believing that being different makes me weird.
There have been countless moments where I’ve felt humiliated for trying to be proud of my faith. I told someone at a party (that I didn’t really want to be at) that I don’t drink and he looked at me like I didn’t know how to speak English. I confessed to girls in my sorority that I don’t really like to party and their flat, half-interested, “oh, okay” responses felt more like “Why are you here?” responses.
And that is not fun to feel, especially when I’d just moved several hundred miles away from home and was absolutely desperate to make friends. Being looked at like a charity case, like I was helplessly naïve, was incredibly degrading. It started to make me question who I am, and who God is. I began to feel like I had to omit my faith in order to make friends. I was already, after only a week or two, sick of feeling so different from everyone I encountered.
All of this really shook my faith around at a time when I needed it to be a rock solid foundation. After all, everything else in my life was changing at a dizzying pace.
So I had to dig deep and practically start at the beginning. I had to figure out how to strengthen my relationship with Jesus on my own, without my youth group and church from back home, in a place where temptation and judgement were literally everywhere. I had to come back to my senses and remember that being different makes me so incredibly powerful. Being different, following Jesus, doesn’t make me stick out; it makes me radiate from the inside out. There definitely is a difference.
And the best part is, I’ve found, that God has something to say about each of those negative feelings.
About feeling naïve:
“Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” -1 Timothy 4:12
About feeling like it’s a fight I can’t win:
“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” 1 James: 2-4
About questioning myself:
“Stay true to what is right…” 1 Timothy 4: 16
About feeling alone in a city of non-believers:
“Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous.” -Psalm 27:14
About being afraid to be different:
“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” -Matthew 5: 14-16
Now, I want to make sure that if any of you are experiencing the same thing or might in the future, you skip all that drama at the beginning and get right to the good part, the part where you and God are closer than you have ever been, the part where you can be a light to the people around you, the part where you and Jesus start kicking butt at life.
Because that’s where I’m at now. And it is so, so good. God is so, so good.
My roommate has asked to start attending youth group events with me so that she can learn about Jesus; I’m planning on doing missionary work while I study abroad in Paris next fall; I’m learning to love being the Christian Girl everywhere I go.
I’ve seen and felt that God is with me wherever I go, and that I have something so much greater than anything this fragile world can offer me. I have the Creator of the Universe in my corner, loving me, listening to me, and fighting for me every day.