So here you are embarking on a new chapter, university life. Welcome to the most incredible, character building, changing and challenging years of your life!
Let me take this opportunity to give you the most valuable piece of wisdom I would have wanted to hear when I stood where you are now. As you prepare to embark on this next chapter of your lives:
Let the big picture change how you view the here and now.
Looking in the rear-view mirror is to help you drive forward
My most meaningful memories from high school congregated around my last several days of classes. I took hold of the organic opportunity to look back and value the investments and experiences I’d made and had over the course of the year.
This reminiscing uncovered those experiences I valued most, but it also brought regrets to the surface: upsetting tests that clouded a day or even a week, inauthentic friendships built in order to be liked and missed opportunities.
There’s a saying that we’ve all heard: hindsight is 20/20. And it’s true, perspective is important; it brings things into focus we didn’t realize in the moment.
Perspective doesn’t only have to be backwards, when it’s too late to change what’s been done.
Perspective is most valuable when an opportunity and its matrix of decisions are before you.
Think like an adult; live with an eye on the future
While studying at university I learned how important it is to see things in their true context, the big picture, and to make decisions in light of this reality.
The next five to ten years are a unique period in your life where you will explore who you are and what you want to do. You will move to different places and meet new people of all backgrounds and social circles. The choices you make during these years will lay a foundation that will remain throughout your life.
The red part is not the whole story
Let me share one of my favourite illustrations. Francis Chan, author and pastor, once pulled out a long white rope and encouraged those in the room to imagine this rope going on forever.
He then said, “Imagine this rope is a timeline of your existence.”
Holding up the end of the rope, he pointed to the approximately three inch end of the rope that was painted red.“You see this red part, this represents your time on earth.”
It was surprising to see my earthly existence, that often seems so significant, represented as a short three inch red segment. First my eyes trace the red section and then as I view the WHOLE rope as it spans around the room, I must consider, which part of the rope am I living for?
This itty-bity sliver of green tape
Let’s take this illustration further. Imagine that on the painted red end of the rope there is a piece of green tape the width of your finger. This green tape represents the next four or five years of your life.
The little green part may not seem significant compared to the length of the red, but in fact the decisions you make during these next four or five years will impact far more than their length alone: they will impact your life.
Take my own experience as an example. During my time at university I developed skills and interests that would gear me towards my career in the Prosthetics and Orthotics (P&O) field. I made relationships with the professors who wrote me references to get into the P&O program.
I became connected with a community of friends in Power to Change whose passion to see the world changed through the good news of Jesus shaped my character. It was in this community that I met some of my best friends and traveled across the world serving God.
It was those mission trips that made me see the need in the world and the purpose to which I wanted to dedicate my life. It was also through this community that I met J., my amazing husband, who had similar experiences. J. and I made a lifetime commitment to one another in marriage, a decision that massively impacts the rest of our lives.
Let the big picture change how you view the here and now. This is vital for you to hear before you enter this next stage of your lives. The culture around you is doing all it can to get you to look into the other end of the telescope.
“Live for the moment!”
“Do what feels good!”
“It’s all about the here and now!”
But living for the moment effects much more than the moment itself. These words of society’s wisdom try to isolate your decisions from their real, far-reaching effects.
The decisions you make in the next few years will have an impact on the rest of your life.
Good news or bad news: Your choices will affect eternity
Going back to the rope illustration as the timeline of our lives: Francis Chan says, “You have a few short years here on earth.” Considering the rest of the length of the rope, he says, “and then you have all of eternity somewhere else. This is your existence.”
In the same way that the decisions you make in the next few years will impact your life, the decisions we make in our lives on earth have an impact on our lives for eternity.
Eternity is a hard thing to fathom, so I’ve found this illustration helpful to begin to grasp its enormity. Imagine that this rope goes on for infinity, and where’s our life on earth? Here it is, this small red bit, just clinging to the tip of our existence!
Are you really looking?
No wonder Jesus said, “What profits a man if he gain the whole world and forfeits his soul?” It’s commonplace to laugh at people who invest in things we can’t see, especially when it appears to mean missing out in the moment.
Why go on a missions trip when you could enjoy a comfortable vacation?
Why wait on sex when you can have it right now?
Why help your friend study when you’ve got plenty to get done for tomorrow’s exam?
But when things are put in perspective, we realize that it is foolish to spend our time, gifting and finances only on this life. It lasts only a short collection of years.
How do we live with eternity in view?
How then do we live with the correct perspective? With eternity in view?
We set our eyes on things that are eternal. We make choices by taking eternity into account.
I often ask myself at times when I’m getting worked up by the “stuff” of life, in view of eternity, does this really matter? Is this something I want to be spending my time, my energy, my savings on?
It’s so tempting to live for the moment these next few years; most people around you are doing just that.
Insider info: Only three things in this life last forever
There are only three things that the Bible says will endure beyond this life– 1. God, 2. his Word and 3. the souls of men and women.
The two greatest decisions I made during my years at university were:
First, making an adult decision about who Jesus is and beginning a personal relationship with him.
Second, letting that relationship overflow to have an impact on others on my campus and around the world.
Have you considered who God is, for yourself?
First, a personal relationship with God is something we must look in to for ourselves. This means your relationship with God can not be inherited from your family’s faith.
A relationship is not gained passively; it takes time and effort to get to know who God is. This means you cannot challenge God to prove himself to you as you remain idle. Look into the history. Read the Bible for yourself. Look into who Jesus really was and explore it for yourself. Test the claims he made about himself so you can make an adult decision about who Jesus is.
Are you ready to help people discover Jesus?
Second, will you let that relationship overflow to have an impact on others on your campus and around the world?
The souls of men and women will last into eternity. The decision to help others discover Jesus is a sure investment into eternity and exactly what God has left his children on earth to do. So many people are in need, and the next season of university leaves you more available to help than any other time in your life.
Right now, you are embarking on such an incredible adventure, discovering who you are and laying down the foundation stones of your life. As you enter this new maze of decisions and opportunities, I pray that you remember this rope and the perspective it offers.
In my husband’s favourite movie, Gladiator, the main character declares, “What we do in this life echoes in eternity.”