"So, where are you going to college next year?” This is the quintessential cliché of senior year.
And to use another cliché, if I had a dollar for every time my high-school-senior self answered that question, I’d have paid off my tuition and a half. Before scholarships were factored in. As all my possible responses were private, Christian colleges, that’s an expensive statement!
By March, my original list of seven possible schools had dwindled to three, each numbered in non-specific, always oscillating order. Dordt floated around in the mix of consideration. I had visited each school, applied for all eligible scholarships, weighed the pros and cons of each, pictured myself in each dorm, each coffee shop, each classroom – all that is expected of a prospective student!
Though I held each school in high regard, I was not fervidly enthusiastic about any of them. Making a decision seemed impossible because, to be entirely honest, I had grown apathetic. The decision process, the constant discerning had diluted my excitement. I simply wanted to know where I would be attending and let it be. I wanted to exist fully in the remainder of my senior year without planning, without trying to live in the future. Nonetheless, I knew I would later regret making such a critical decision in a passive mindset.
So I did some stalling.
Because of some scholarship opportunities, Dordt needed an early commitment from me. However, because one of my top-three schools waited to send out acceptance letters until late March, Dordt graciously gave me an extension on my commitment deadline.
Which subsidized my stalling.
Dordt needed a final answer on a Monday morning, about a week after I received an acceptance letter from the problem school. Around 7:00 on the preceding Sunday night, I thought, “Hey! Maybe I need to stop stalling, start focusing my cares, and make a final decision.” So, I did what all good Christians do: I fasted.
From tea. Which is a monumental endeavor for me.
My teapot locked in the upstairs pantry and my tea-deprived body locked in my basement bedroom, I spread all the recruitment postcards, featuring faces exuding contentment, and all the informational packets, peppered with notes I’d jotted during visits, over my bedspread. I symbolically planted myself in the middle of the paper menagerie, and put my iPod on shuffle.
I re-read it all. I re-debated all the pros and cons. I re-experienced all my tours, all my interviews, all my conversations mentally. I re-listened to various sermons from each campus pastor. And I prayed.
God, this decision will undoubtedly impact the rest of my life. How is eighteen-year-old me supposed to figure out what you want of her? What if I make a wrong decision? Pick the wrong school?
Beloved, there is no such thing as a wrong decision. I am with you wherever you go.
But if I can’t make a wrong decision, why have I spent so many hours searching schools online, filling out application forms, traveling all over the states? If you’re always with me, why did I try so hard, and why is it so hard to finish the process? Isn’t there something to be gained from all this discernment? Aren’t I supposed to feel You guiding me somewhere? Feel Your pleasure when I make a decision that honors You?
Maybe the decision process isn’t about figuring out what is right and what is wrong for you. Maybe it’s about seeking Me, talking to Me. Maybe it’s about learning to know Me.
God, I do want to know You. I really, really do. That’s why I’m going to a Christian college. I need to develop my faith in an environment that’s conducive to spiritual growth. So which school is going to help me grow the best?
A school cannot develop your faith. Only I can do that.
Okay. So where do you want to grow me?
And God whispered, Daughter, go to Dordt.
And there was a moment of silence before my iPod began to play Talain Rayne’s “Dear Sister, Your Brother,” a song used in one of Dordt’s promotional videos.
“Please say, everything is okay. Tell me we can go play like we did when we were younger.”
And I sobbed. I sobbed for all the stress released. I sobbed for the realization that I truly would be leaving high school, leaving home. I sobbed for the schools I wouldn’t get to attend, and I sobbed out of excitement for the experiences I was about to have. I was a mess, a happy mess.
“And you’ll sing when you shout, ‘cuz you know you’re gonna make it.”
Thank you, Lord. Thank you for loving me enough to give me the unwavering answer my fickle heart wanted, though it was the lesson I needed. You always provide.
Every time the Thursday night praise and worship leaders invite us to greet one another, I’m engulfed in dozens of sincere hugs, amazed by how many people I’ve come to love in a short semester and a half. Simultaneously, though, I think back to the first time I stood amidst the mass of students on my tour, feeling so young and out of place.
As I navigate the halls of Covenant, the building that has now become the pinpoint home to my all-encompassing home of Dordt, I smirk at the memory of my prospective-student self, who followed her tour guide aimlessly, unable to identify which floor she was on or where she was headed.
As Dordt administrators proposed the vision for this blog, the four of us bloggers sat around the conference room table and listened intently. Exactly a year previous, I was in that same chair intently writing essays and filling out paperwork. The comparison between my two selves is jarring, and also compelling.
When I first stepped into Dordt’s black box theatre, I couldn’t see the shadow of my future self performing in her first college play months later. I couldn’t see future Annie in the KSP dungeon -- I mean, classroom -- forever enthralled by all there was to know about the development of Christian worldview. I couldn’t see future Annie eating a cookie at 55th and laughing with (bear with me through this final cliché!) the friends who have become family.
Similarly, I can’t see the futures of any of the prospective students who’ve stayed in my room or milled around the campus I now claim home.
But, God, I sure do pray a similar experience on them.
“Oh, oh we’ll sing and shout, lying on the ground, staring up at worlds beyond our own."