Monday, June 13, 2016

Dear Future Moody Student: An Open Letter

To be totally honest, this letter is more to my brother than anyone else. But I like to think that anyone heading off to Moody, or a Christian college in general, could find something of truth in these words. I hope I can pass on a bit of advice that, maybe in the good and hard moments alike, will stay with you.

To Michael (and other incoming Moodies),

Part of me is questioning why I'm even writing this. If I were honest, I'm not sure that 18-year-old college-bound me would've paid much attention. My head was in the clouds--I was just excited to be striking out on my own, to see what I would become and what I would do. At this point in life, you feel limitless. You can become anything, go anywhere, do anything. The world is at your feet.

But eventually, in four short years you will (hopefully) be an alum, like me, with a real-world job, real-world experiences, and real-world problems. You'll have wisdom and advice that you'll want to share with those who follow, and you'll hope that they will listen. Because life is fast--it's gone before you know what it has been. And you'll have the rest of your life to think about all the things you wish you had (and hadn't) done as an 18-year-old college student.

So this is my advice, the few things that I think are most important to pass on from my experience at the school that D.L. Moody founded.

1. People matter. You might forget this as you're sitting in new student orientation and they're telling you how much time you should devote to homework. Or when you're thinking about dating someone for completely selfish reasons. Or when you know and understand more about theology than most of your classmates. Or when someone is crying in your room but you're late for class, or dinner.

What they don't tell you, as a bright-eyed incoming freshman, is that ultimately, all you take with you are human souls. You get a degree for a few years, maybe 80-some if you're lucky. Maybe it helps you land your dream ministry job, or maybe it hinders you from securing the "secular" job you need to pay the bills. Either way, it's a piece of paper and you can't take it with you when you go. When "the roll is called up yonder" all you'll be seeing are people. And trust me, you want to see faces that you've cared for, not faces that you've walked over.

My advice is to make the most of your relationships and interactions. Remember that everyone is an image-bearer of God and immensely valuable, just like you. The people you'll meet, they don't care about how impressive your internship was, or how much you know about Calvin, or what your GPA was this semester. They will just long to be loved--Moody student and non-student alike--and you will have the opportunity to love them well. Don't miss out on that opportunity.

2. Keep your priorities straight. It will be really easy to get distracted, so set your priorities now and stick to them. There will be a million different groups and clubs and activities for you to join the moment your feet hit the plaza. And some of them might be really great things that you should definitely try, but not at the expense of what's most important.

I would rank priorities in this order: God, people, everything else. And within everything else will fall your classes, homework, a job or two, PCM, sports, clubs, the list goes on. And the thing is, lots of times at school, the priorities get shuffled to everything else, people, and then God.

Because at Moody, God is in so much of what you're doing every day, it can be easy to forget about making Him your top priority. You talk about Him in class, in chapel, in the dinning hall, in your dorm room, in your 20-page paper, at church, on the phone. And you read the Bible just as much. Eventually it will feel like the Bible is a textbook and God has enough of your time, He doesn't need any more. The struggle is in keeping Him the main thing all the time, and not losing your personal time with Him.

Fight for God to be a priority in your life, even when you don't feel like it. Even when you're jaded by Christian legalism, hypocrites, gossips, and unkind professors. Even when you're tired and just want to sleep. Even when you're not sure if this whole Christianity thing is for you. Even when everyone else is doing it, whatever it is. Don't lose your dedication to the Lord, He's what matters most.

3. Do your best. I'll be totally honest, some classes you'll be tempted to skate through. You'll want to take as many short cuts as you can find, especially when you're taking 18 credit hours, working 30, and sleeping four. But don't forget why you came to Moody. You're there to become a minister of the gospel, well-equipped and wise. You're there to be trained, to grow, to learn as much as you can and use it in the future. You're there to be sharpened and shaped into a better version of yourself.

Remember that when you want to cut corners, to sign off on the reading but not actually do it, to take a power nap in class. You might be able to pass, but it won't help you in the future. The less you dedicate now, the less you'll have to give later when you're relying on your training to do your job. And at that point, you'll wish you hadn't been texting through class, playing kitten cannon on your laptop, or sleeping instead of studying.

With that said, you can't do it all. You will have to let some things go. You won't be able to go to every party, every downtown adventure, every on-campus event. And trust me, in the long run, those are the things you'll want to sacrifice over your papers, projects, and grades. You don't have to be a hermit, but you'll have to know how to prioritize and when to say no.

4. Have fun. So yes, there are lots of really important things like grades and jobs, but you also need to have fun. Making time for friends, activities, and exercise will help keep you sane. My biggest stress reliever in college was going to the gym. Sometimes it would be playing basketball, other days I would just run as fast and as far as I could. I needed that on the days when I felt frustrated and out of control (aka, most days).

My other stress reliever was having a close friend or two who knew me really well and loved just the same. I made a lot of mistakes, before college and in college. Having a best friend to be around helped me to open up and be honest about myself and my feelings. And let me tell you, you go through a lot of different emotions and situations in college. Having someone to help navigate that means the world.

Life is really short and you've only got one shot at it. Make it a good shot. You may fail sometimes--on tests or in relationships or at jobs--but that doesn't mean life is over. All it means is that you have a chance to learn something, to grow, and to become great.

I hope you love your time at Moody and that it's everything you hope for and more.

- Elise
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