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A challenge and an adventure

College life offers rich opportunities


A challenge and an adventure
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Dear Caroline:

This year, you embark on one of the greatest adventures of your life. As you begin your first year of college, it is good to take stock of where you’ve been and where you are headed in the life God has given you.

Your great-grandfather was a syndicated columnist for over 40 newspapers in Georgia for eleven years when I was a boy. When your uncle went to college, your great-grandfather wrote a column that began with “Dear Tucker” and ended with “Love, Papa.” In that piece, he gave essential and unforgettable wisdom to your uncle about the joy of learning, meeting friends from everywhere in Georgia, America, and the world, and remembering to keep the Lord at the center of all activities. He did the same for me when I went to college in 1988. And now, I offer something like that to you, as you embark on the great adventure that is college.

First, a look back. You come from a great tradition as a Christian, as an American, and as a member of your family. No one among us is perfect, but our traditions form us from the inside out. What you are and who you are, based on your soul and mind that form your invisible life, define the person we all see on the outside. You stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before you. Everything you value, all your accomplishments, and all the good you have to offer, you draw from an inheritance you have received from the traditions interlaced together, which are sourced in your faith, your nation, and your family. Comb your traditions and seek out those parts of them that comport with the good, the true, and the beautiful. Understand them, preserve them, own them for yourself, and be prepared to pass them down to your children and your grandchildren someday.

As with all great adventures, college life can be daunting and intimidating. You will be challenged in ways you’ve never dreamed of. You’ll be introduced to ideas you’ve never considered, people from places and backgrounds you’ve little knowledge of, and opportunities you’ve never encountered. You’ll have to learn new skills for work and other new skills for interacting with people. These skills you’ll learn for the first time in college will serve you well for a long and useful life. But don’t shrink away from the daunting nature of this adventure. Take courage, and embrace the newness of college life despite whatever apprehensions lurk in your heart.

Above all, remember who you are as a believer and lover of Christ.

One of college’s wonderful joys will be making friends with people from unknown places. You’ll meet people from small towns in Kentucky, like Rosine, Murray, Somerset, and Berea. And you’ll meet people from large cities like Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Indianapolis. You’ll even meet people from other countries like South Korea, Nigeria, India, and Poland. You may even be invited to visit these new friends’ homes, which will be a tremendous honor. When such an invitation comes, remember to conduct yourself in such a way as to be invited back, responding to your elders by saying “yes sir,” and “yes ma’am,” “thank you,” and “I had such a nice time.” These kinds of small words and gestures may seem old-fashioned to some, but they are unforgettable blessings to the recipients when they emerge from sincerity and a grateful heart.

Meeting and interacting with young men will be a particularly joyful experience for you. Young men and women ought to love and appreciate each other, celebrating each other’s differences and seeing them as the product of the grace of a loving and wise Creator. Enjoy the time spent with women and men your own age. At the same time, know that young men (in particular) can be a great distraction. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, provided you remember who you are, where you came from, and why you are in college. In fact, when you have the right perspective on life, meeting and getting to know a worthy young man can become the greatest adventure of them all—marriage and the raising of a godly family.

Above all, remember who you are as a believer and lover of Christ. Let your inner life be formed by an imagination fed by the Bible, the beautiful mysteries of Christian theology, and the inspiring stories and personalities of Church history. Honoring the Lord starts with gratitude for all that He is, and all that He has done. Be grateful to the Lord who made you and bought you with His own blood. Cherish and honor your good name. Cultivate a godly reputation. Take your faith seriously, no matter what others may do.

Your mother and I are so proud of you. Go forward, and may the Lord lift up the light of His countenance upon you and give you peace.

Love, Dad

John D. Wilsey

John D. Wilsey is associate professor of church history and philosophy at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a research fellow at the Center for Religion, Culture, & Democracy, an initiative of First Liberty Institute.

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