I hope this e-mail finds you all in good spirits, and for those of you who are freshmen this year, I hope that you are loving your new-found freedom and staying afloat as college students!
Each month I’ll be writing a brief newsletter to let you know what is going on back here in ATL and to check in and hopefully offer some encouragement for whatever may be going on in your lives. And in an effort to not cloud everyone’s inbox the letter will be posted on a blog, http://www.peachtreecollege.blogspot.com. This way, if you want to keep up with the ministry you can bookmark the blog or subscribe to it in your Google reader or whatever feed-reader you prefer, and if you don’t you won’t have another unwanted e-mail every month.
What’s Going on With You? (How I’m praying …)
The return to college (or the first arrival at college for some) is bittersweet. You are back to freedom from the parents, back to some of your best friends … and also back to calculus … back to Russian Lit … back to Science, Technology, and Postmodernism. And wrapped up in all of this is the lingering question, “who am I going to be this year? Who am I going to be these 4 years? Am I Johnny/Jane College or Johnny/Jane Christian? Both seem to have their perks and both certainly have their disadvantages as well.
For me, especially freshmen year, this was a very real tension. I had pledged a fraternity, and had some expectations for what that might mean for my moral uprightness. I had also just made a very significant step in my faith in/relationship with God a few months earlier. And in high school and the summer afterwards that was very exciting … all I needed … but by August the excitement had faded, and I started to wonder if the faith that I held would created unwanted barriers in my life away from home. I often found myself wishing that I was not a Christian so that I could do the things I wanted to do. I also found myself regretting a number of the things that I was doing because they seemed contradictory to the purpose I understood the Christian life to be promoting.
Maybe the timing is somewhat different for you … maybe not … but as I understand college students and Christians, my experience was not an uncommon one. What we want to want and what we really want don’t always line up.
I’m not going to pretend that I can offer you a solution to this tension … it is simply a truth of these four years that most of us encounter at some point. What I will offer is some of my own journey through this tension. As I read books and dug into scripture and learned from the master himself, Joe Ryan, one thing that I discovered is that I was holding myself to a different standard than Jesus seemed to hold people to. In my mind there were certain sins that dictated whether or not I was succeeding as a Christian, and if I could restrain from certain things and read my Bible and pray with some regularity, then I was succeeding. But Jesus seemed far less concerned with those things than I was. Not totally unconcerned … but not willing to let any of those things be an end in themselves.
For Jesus morality mattered for its larger purpose … to make the world a better place for everyone and everything in it. It is an issue of trusting God to know better than we do how life is intended to be lived if we are going to have the best life possible, not of merely following arbitrary rules.
And so the source of my tension turned out to be rooted in the surface issues and totally oblivious to their deeper implications. I would argue that my hyper-legalistic concern to be a morally upright person often blinded me to what seem to be two of Jesus’ primary concerns: loving God and loving people, including myself (read Matthew 22:36-40)
My encouragement to you is this: Don’t let legalism paralyze you with fear or guilt—you are free from those things—but sincerely ask the question “Am I becoming a more or a less loving person through this action?” and don’t assume that you know what the answer to that question is … God may surprise you!
What’s Going On In ATL? (What you can be praying for)
11o5 & Vespers are serving as the college ministry’s two worship services and a few students from GT, Agnus Scott, and GA State have begun attending 11o5 with some regularity (Vespers begins in September)
Common Ground is a monthly outreach event that we’ll host at Octane Coffee Shop in Midtown. It’s designed to provide a place for civil theological conversation to take place between people of all different faith systems and will start this Monday night (labor day … maybe poor planning …).
GT Campus Scripture Dive is starting up this upcoming week as well. On Tuesday nights a group of students from GT will meet together to take an in-depth look at the Sermon on the Mount and hopefully get a better idea of what Jesus was all about.
Thanks for reading! Please feel the freedom to write back and ask questions or just fill me in on life! The rest of these will be posted on the blog.