Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Broken Cisterns

One thing I've found is that the college lifestyle is a selfish one.

It's so easy to focus on your own trials, your own frustrations, and your own needs when you live in a world that primarily seems to revolve around you.  You are expected to make good grades and focus daily on studying, to overcome homesickness and become ultimately independent away from your parents, and you aren't necessarily expected to check in with anyone when you come and go.  It's so easy to become caught up in a selfish perspective during your college years.

I had a friend who entered college terrified about the academics.  She so desperately wanted to make a 4.0 that as soon as the semester began, I hardly heard from her.  Mornings, mealtimes, weekends, and evenings were nearly all spent studying alone in libraries and her dorm room.  By the end of first semester, she told me she felt frustrated that she had so easily allowed her world to become all about herself and her studying.  Unfortunately, she felt almost as if her semester had been wasted.  Even though she achieved the 4.0 she wanted, she had not fulfilled the purpose the Lord had set before her.  Her light didn't reach as far as it was intended to shine.

Even if you don't allow yourself to become entirely absorbed with studying, college life can still turn your focus towards you and your problems rather than towards serving those around you.  Your college lifestyle may not be necessarily rebellious or stereotypically sinful, but the problem with an average college day is when you do not spend time being poured into as well as pouring into others.  The Lord can be glorified through your excelling in schoolwork, but if studying becomes your world, then it becomes your idol as well.

If you are living through college without consistently finding opportunities to serve others and share the Gospel, then something is tragically wrong.  Your days are being wasted.

Galatians 5:13 says, "You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love."  College years are certainly a time of freedom from responsibility and many worldly problems.  However, the focus of your life should be to bring God glory and to share His love with everyone around you.  Ask the Lord to bring Gospel-focused conversations and opportunities to serve others into your daily life and He will.

Smile at people walking by.  Make conversation on the bus.  Actually meet the person sitting next to you in class.  Make an effort to meet friends for coffee.  Take time to pray for the people around you.  Connect with the Christian community.  Find an accountability partner and meet with them often.

Remember that these four years are not about you.  Even on the most stressful day of the semester, you are still alive so that you can bring glory to God and share His love.

In Jeremiah 2:13, the Lord says, "They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water."  When we rely on ourselves and our own independence, it's like we have crafted for ourselves a shabby, broken piece of pottery to hold our lives together, when the Lord has created for us a strong and beautiful cistern that is not broken and will not shatter, no matter how heavy our burdens become.  Why do we continue to choose that filthy shard of pottery that couldn't hold us together to begin with?

College life is not a time to be self-centered.  It's a time you can learn to use your independence to place your everything into God's hands and let Him do with it what He will.

Some days you may end up sacrificing an hour of studying to listen to someone open up about their struggles.  Some days you may need to sacrifice your comfort to share the Gospel with somebody in your class.  Some days you may have to learn how to release the stress that so easily consumes everything in your life to the Lord, so that He can bring you a peace and a joy that surpasses everything else.

When you spend your four years of college focused on serving others rather than yourself, people will notice.  You will seem vastly different.  Your light will shine so brightly.

Live these years as a servant.  Fill your conversations with kindness and grace.  Focus daily on sharing God's love with every single person you encounter.

Ephesians 5:1-2 says, "Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."  Make this passage a goal for how you live your college life.  Don't let these four years revolve around you and your problems.  Allow the Lord's beautiful purpose to shine through your college years.

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