I remember three years ago listening to people talk about how to survive college, how to maintain relationships, how to make good choices, etc. And I’m certain I am not the first one to tell you these things. You probably have heard and will continue to hear these things the rest of your life. When I came to college I was excited about these things. College excited me. For the first time in my life I had the chance to do what I wanted to do. I could stay up as late as I wanted. I could eat what I wanted. I could hang out with whoever I wanted to hang out with. I was free. That’s what being college student is about right? The short answer is no. But, the long answer is actually yes.
I could spout off the multiple definitions of a university student for you, but only one definition really matters. Lucky. Unfortunately we live in a world where, due to economic and social issues, going to a university is a privilege and not a right. So you are coming into this with about 18 years of life experience built up and for most of you that experience is actually from a fairly narrow worldview. But you are coming to a place where there are numerous other people with just as much life experience from a completely different narrow worldview. Multiple people are coming together in the same place to learn, laugh, play, and live as one community. Your first few weeks at college are going to be bombarded with an influx of new ideas, experiences, and ways of thinking. That is an awesome thing that, quite frankly, a lot of people take for granted. Take all of that in. Absorb as much as you can.
Some of the information you take in will actually be shit. This might shock some of you, but you don’t actually have to be smart to get into college. You might get some bad information, but for the first time it is completely up to you to take in the good and discard the rest. You are solely responsible for shaping who you are going to become. Again, I say, this is an awesome thing and please don’t take it for granted. When I joined the Catholic Church in high school, and I was under the impression that church was separate from the rest of my life. Now don’t get me wrong, I lived a pretty decent life. I was kind to my parents and friends and I helped people when I could, but I was a Catholic on Sundays, and the rest of the week I was just Topher. Free to live how I wanted. Being a Catholic to me didn’t have much to do with what happened outside of mass. All the other activities and things I was involved in, those were just for me, for fun. But God wants more. God wants us fully and completely. He wants every part of us.
The Glory of God is Man Fully Alive.
Just think about that sentence for a minute. The Glory of God is Man Fully Alive. Think about all the talents and desires you have. Every time I do anything involving music it becomes a prayer for me. God is right next to me on the drum set. Some of you may have that same love for music. Some of you may be amazing athletes or artists. Maybe you are good at math or science. Whatever it may be God gave you these talents and desires for a purpose. If you love something, do it. And do it well! Never half-ass anything! Better yourself. Become the best that you can be.
Take your skills and hone them. Take your desires and explore them. Take your gifts and share them. But don’t separate it like I used to.
The word ‘good’ is used 7 times in the first chapter of Genesis. God created the world and all things in it and it was GOOD. God doesn’t make any mistakes. We hear plenty of times the phrase ‘Live in the world, not of the world.’ Take that to heart.
Some of you have already heard a version of this metaphor, but think of God as a bully. Not a mean bully necessarily, but one who loves you and wants you to grow. But yes, God. Bully. And we are playing the world’s biggest game of dodge ball. Now you could go stand in the corner and you will avoid getting hit for a long time. But you will never win that way. You have to come out. Risk getting hit. Risk falling down. Every failure makes every success that much more meaningful.
We see a society every day that tries to separate church from the rest of our lives. God stays in the chapel? Hell NO! He is all around us and deserves to be included in all that we do. Every day we are taking the things that God has given us in this world and using them to do new and wonderful and amazing things. So again, I say, the glory of God is man fully alive! God’s greatest creation is us and when we take the things of this world and the talents that he has given us we are just helping him showoff! And I’m not saying you need to say a formal prayer before every little thing you do, but just always be conscious of God’s role. Know that having God in all your activities simply means doing every single thing you do to the best of your ability. Be the absolute best that you can be. That is what truly honors and gives glory to God.
So, in college, you are free to be who you truly want to be. But I ask you to be more. Be who God truly called you to be. Take every chance you get at college. Go to that interesting lecture for a class you’re not even taking. Go join that club that does that activity you’ve always been interested in. Go talk to people you might not have ever associated with in high school.. And most importantly, go learn! Every new experience is a chance to learn something new. Take all that in and help God shape who you are called to be. Fully alive!
God gives us so much that we take for granted, but if we stop and look around once and awhile we will see God’s love all around us. Now some of you might be surprised by this, even some of the leaders, but since middle school I have had a pretty bad ongoing battle with depression. I have contemplated suicide more times than I’m comfortable admitting. The only thing that gets me up every morning is constantly reminding myself of God’s love, and to remind myself of this, I got the tattoo Deus Caritas Est, God is Love, etched on my arm to remind myself every day that God loves me and the proof is in every friend I have, in every crazy awesome opportunity I get in my life, every challenge I encounter, every hardship I go through.
My anti-depressant is getting out there and working every day to become who God made me to be. Being involved in college, in life, is what keeps me going and excited and loving life. I want to end with some advice from one of my favorite musicians, who has been an inspiration to me through some tough years:.
Honesty and authenticity work. People want to be a part of that…if you are pursuing your dreams, pursuing what it is you’re passionate about…don’t give up. Push through the droughts. Channel the inevitable disappointments back into your craft. Break molds. Think. Create. And most importantly, stay alive. And in the meantime, make it about others. That seems to work. Stay strong. Live on. And power to the local dreamer.
–Tyler Joseph, Twenty One Pilots
is a recent Mount St. Mary's University graduate with a B.A. in Theology with an emphasis in Youth Ministry. Topher spends his free time finding deep religious meaning in professional wrestling and discussing with his friends the proper order in which to watch the Star Wars movies. He is also the youth minister at St. Lawrence Martyr (who just happens to be his Confirmation saint) Parish in Jessup, MD.