To all my young friends
Yesterday afternoon, while banging around in the church kitchen, one of the Venturers asked me if I did much partying while I was in college. Even made a passing reference to drugs and so on. I said to ask me later. That made some eyebrows go up. Now, I'm not embarrassed to talk with kids about my own young adulthood, but a question like that deserves an honest answer, and we were busy with other things at the moment. An off-the-cuff answer wouldn't really say what needed to be said. For if I gave the expected answer ("No"), I would confirm my public image, but I wouldn't be completely truthful -- and since youth asking real questions deserve real answers, I don't want to just give the expected answer. On the other hand, if I said "Yes," I risked giving an unfounded impression of a wild and crazy young adulthood; I also risked giving the impression that wild and crazy is okay (wink, wink).
So let me tell you a couple of things.
When I went off to college, my mother said to me, "Never let college interfere with your education." Needless to say, that surprised me. Not just that a mother
would say that to her son, but that my
mother would say that to me. But she wasn't telling me to cut loose and howl, nor was she really expecting me to. What she was telling me was that it is part of growing up and learning about the world to go out and meet people and do things on your own. Your parents can't hover over you for ever. And however much they may fear for you, they expect you to grow up.
Growing up -- becoming an adult -- getting an education -- means facing choices you've never made before. It means making friends with different values. It means learning whom you can trust, which unfortunately sometimes means learning what it's like to be taken advantage of, without a mommy or daddy to go make it right. It means accepting the consequences of your actions. It means being responsible for yourself. It means trying new things. It can also mean acting foolishly at times, simply because you haven't learned wisdom yet. And the only way you can learn wisdom is to deal with stuff on your own.
Most young adults test their personal boundaries. Most young adults do at least a few foolish things. That's part of being immature. Some people pay a terrible cost for some of the choices they make. And some try to hold onto the most foolish behaviors as a badge of honor, which is the very definition of immaturity. But most folks learn pretty quickly what is wise and what is not, and the magic happens: they grow up. They acquire wisdom. Their education is advanced (which is something different from getting a degree).
So, the short answer is, Yes, even ol' Art has howled at the moon a few times. But it didn't take long before I realized that partying was a pretty empty exercise. I was looking for something better than thrills or loud music. I wanted friends, not just a crowd. And my mind was wide awake; I didn't want it sedated with drugs or beer or music. So, even in the age of Sex, Drugs, and Rock'n'Roll, the party scene couldn't hold my interest. I fell in love and got married and did other things with my life.
And one other thing.
I was a church orphan. I didn't go to church regularly, had never been confirmed, had never gone to church camp. There was a whole range of "normal" experiences I missed out on as a teenager. When I went to college, I had no spiritual allegiance, no fixed beliefs, no secure relationship with God. I wanted all those things, but I didn't know how badly I wanted them. I was just making it up as I went along, with no one to guide me.
Well, one of my first friends in college "witnessed" to me about Jesus Christ. I read his pamphlets. I talked with him about the Bible. I thought about what he said. And about the time I was turning eighteen (a month after starting college), I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, all alone in my dorm room. The next day, I thought back over what I had done. I felt as though I had turned a corner. I had made a decision. I had committed myself to something. I had no clue where that would take me, but I meant what I said when I asked God to forgive my sins and make me his own. And I meant it when I said that I would follow Jesus Christ for ever.
And while I don't want to be preachy about it, since you asked,
let me tell you that the most important decision I have ever made in my life -- and the most fulfilling -- was that one. And so, I have two pieces of advice to give you, if you're really interested. The first is from my mother: never let college interfere with your education; because learning wisdom is about more than earning a diploma. The second is from me, and it is this: the best decision you will ever make is to give your life to Jesus Christ and be his follower. And if you'd like to know how to do that, I'll be happy to show you how, as will others in his Church.