In college, you become an adult. At least, that’s what they tell you.
But sometimes, I wonder if that’s true. I know just last month, I had popcorn and carrot sticks for dinner.
Nevertheless, my undergraduate education is in the rear view mirror. And I managed to leave school with good friends, great memories, some savings, and a degree.
Not too bad, if you ask me.
In the next month, thousands of freshmen will begin their college careers at campuses across the country. And a good number of students from our church will head off to the places God has called them to learn and grow.
It’s an exciting time. But in the midst of the frantic activity that accompanies this period of incredible change, it can be easy to neglect long-term planning. Few people take intentional steps to cultivate their mental, emotional, and relational health while at college.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Here are four things first-year students can do in their first five days on campus to ensure that their time at school is healthy, balanced, and well spent.
1. ESTABLISH A RHYTHM
Habits are easy to form, harder to break, and impossible to avoid. Given time, everyone develops a rhythm. In your first five days at school, think carefully about your routine. How will you fill your day?
If your first few nights end on YouTube at 3am, chances are high that you’ll have a nocturnal semester. If you spend those early afternoons at the gym, your odds of uncovering that six pack by Spring Break will dramatically increase. If you go to church your first Sunday, you’ll keep going. If you don’t, you probably won’t start. Habits are like that. They develop quickly and sometimes unintentionally.
There are many ways to craft a routine. The worst way is without any thought.
Be deliberate about what you do during your early days on campus. Establish an enjoyable, sustainable, and healthy schedule. In November, you’ll be thankful you did.
2. TEXT NEW PEOPLE
It will be impossible to accurately describe the things you’ve done and the people you’ve met to your high school besties. So don’t. Stop texting them so often. Live where you are.
Too many first-year students avoid the healthy social awkwardness that accompanies new places and unfamiliar people by doubling down on their digital relationships with old friends. Don’t make that mistake. Old friends are good. But new friends are worth making. And your first five days at college present an unequaled opportunity for beginning new relationships. Everyone’s looking for friends. New bonds are easily formed.
This incredible social openness only lasts a little while. Don’t waste your time.
Join clubs and attend events. Get new numbers. Make plans. Do fun and fascinating things on your new campus with new people. Then, you’ll have good stories to share when you see your old friends at home during Thanksgiving Break.
3. GET REAL WITH YOUR ROOMIE
Dorm life and international flights have a lot in common. Both involve sharing a small space for a long time with a relative stranger. Though polite conversation can make the first hours pass pleasantly, the moment comes when you realize you’re stuck with the person next to you until the trip is over.
You’ll be living with your college roommate for the next eight months. The honeymoon will end. Friction is coming. Start preparing now.
Many take time to get to know their college roommate in their first few days on campus. But few establish healthy lines of communication that will facilitate successful coexistence over the long run.
Though it’s exciting to explore a roommate’s past loves, favorite movies and biggest regrets, the discussion must progress. It’s important to determine how you will approach each other with frustrations, to set expectations for borrowing items and inviting guests into your space, and to schedule regular times to address simmering conflicts or to clean common areas.
These discussions aren’t always fun. But they’re the kinds of conversations that make long-term relationships work.
Healthy communication with your roommate will go a long way in guaranteeing that your first year on campus is absent from unnecessary conflict and stress.
4. REFLECT THOUGHTFULLY
College will change you. Expect it. Exposure to new ideas and people brings transformation.
But not all change is good change.
Before the semester has time and space to shape you, sit down with a pen and paper. Give yourself 10 minutes. Write down who you want to be, what you’d like to do, and how you want to interact with others. And be honest. This exercise is worthless if you aren’t.
This written record of your aspirations and values won’t be useful for a few months, so store it someplace safe. But after some time has passed, pull it out and read it. See if you’re still on track to be the person you wanted to be.
Maybe your goals have changed. If they have, ask why. Use this document to assess if your new perspectives and ambitions are for better or for worse.
A college student who reflects on who they are and how they are changing is a rare thing. Making this small effort during your first five days on campus could pay huge dividends, allowing you to use your four years on campus to bring about the type of maturity and growth you’ve wanted when you began.
College life flies by fast. Your first five days will be over before you know it.
Enjoy them. Fill them. And use them wisely. Take time to do what’s meaningful and healthy. A little bit of thinking and effort at the beginning can save you from a whole lot of problem solving at the end.
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Time is limited.
Your time is limited.
And though we’re reminded of time’s limits from time to time, we rarely stop to reflect on the reality that our lives have a span – that they have a beginning, a middle, and yes…an end.
Our time is limited. And this reality makes us uncomfortable.
This fact that we can’t change troubles us to the core.
Because our desires are unlimited, and our dreams are many. What we’d like to do and like to see and like to experience expands by the day – but our time is limited.
This is why the philosophers say that time measures priority.
Because our desires are many, and because our time is limited, the way we fill our weeks and months indicates what we value most. So, pause with me for one moment, and consider your past year: How did you spend your time?
Did you spend it well? Or spend it poorly? Did you use it wisely? Or waste it away?
If the way you spent your time last year set the pattern for how you’ll spend your time next year, would you be pleased with where that pattern took you in five years? Or ten?
Time is limited. And it’s ticking away. Are you investing what little time you have? Or are you squandering it? Are you making the most of your days, or are your days slipping away carelessly?
Time is limited.
The fearful avoid this reality. And the prideful deny this reality. But those who are wise, those who have ears to hear, those who embrace the fact that our lives have a God-given span; they live differently. They think differently. And they pray differently.
In Psalm 90, Moses pours out his heart to God. He says, “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting, you are God… A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night… Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures. Yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass and we fly away.” (NIV)
Moses declares, “Our time is limited.” But then, he makes a request. Then, he asks God for help. Moses does what we so often neglect to do. Moses prays, “Teach us to number our days so that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Moses recognizes that a right recognition of the finitude of time helps thoughtful people make wise choices.
So as we begin a new year, we’ve got to ask ourselves: Am I thinking about my time?
Am I spending my time in ways that honor God and serve my neighbor?
Those who are wise recognize that time is precious and that time indicates priorities. So they say, “I’m going to use my time for what matters. I’m going to leverage my time as best as I can. I’m going to invest my time instead of wasting my time – because what little I have is ticking away.”
This week, will you take time to connect with the Author of Time to consider your time? Will you look at your calendar in light of Psalm 90, and give consideration to what should be added and what should be removed?
Our prayer is that this year we might grow in our ability to steward our time.
Will you join us in that journey?
Photo by Heather Zabriskie on Unsplash[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]On my phone, I recently caught up with a friend who is doing graduate studies in Paris. After we concluded our FaceTime conversation, I couldn’t help but pause for a moment and savor the technology in my hand. When we stop to think about it, smartphone technology is a bit breathtaking. With just a touch on a screen, we instantly access almost any information imaginable. From almost anywhere, we quickly hail a ride to get where we need to go. If we are in a new city, we can get detailed directions to a close-by restaurant, gas station, or movie theatre. With our phone camera we can capture a memory-making moment and, in a flash, post it on Facebook or send it via a text message to our family and friends.
Our smartphones are helpful things, but they also can be harmful things. It may be time to put a warning label on your phone: “Excessive use of this phone may be hazardous to your life.” The problem is that many of us are not being very smart with our smartphones. They have become too much a part of our lives.
In Tony Reinke’s new book, 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You, he points out that on average we check our phones about 81,500 times each year or about once every four minutes of our waking lives. Rather than being tools to assist us, phones can become masters that enslave us.
Neuroscientists tell us our phones are actually re-wiring our brains. Technologists point out that smartphones are specifically designed to keep us glued to the screen. Other researchers and social observers note how excessive use of phones is transforming us into distracted people where intimacy in our interpersonal relationships is increasingly suffering. Excessive phone use fills our minds and hearts with digital junk food, impairing our literacy skills as well as our ability to think critically. Distracted drivers are a growing concern in automobile accidents.
We must also ponder the damaging effects of excessive phone use as it relates to our spiritual formation and cultivating intimacy with God. If spiritual formation requires an attentive life to Christ and others, a smartphone-driven, distracted life is a real and present danger for any apprentice of Jesus. Transparently, my phone woos me so much that on my day off, I often put it in a drawer out of sight. If I leave my cell phone at home even for a short drive to the grocery store, I feel a kind of panic, like I can’t function without it. How pathetic.
I believe it is time for us to become smarter with our smartphones so that we can pursue a more attentive, disciplined, and less distracted life. If you are not being very smart with your smartphone, if your intimacy with God, the wellbeing of your soul and your relationships are suffering as a result, let me suggest a wiser way forward.
First, get off your phone. Don’t text when you drive. On a weekly basis, do a several hour phone fast. I assure you the world will go on and you will survive. Not only will you survive, you will thrive. A technology fast is both freeing and enriching.
Second, get alone. One of the most foundational spiritual disciplines is solitude. We live in a very noisy world. Solitude not only nourishes our soul, it also helps us be more attentive to God and His still small voice in our lives.
Third, get in the Word. What is your regular weekly pattern for studying God’s Word? The spiritual discipline of study will fill your heart and mind with life-giving truth and timeless wisdom, not digital junk food of trivial information. Put your phone aside and pick up your Bible. As the Apostle Paul reminds us, “let the word of Christ richly dwell within you.”
Fourth, get outside. Get your eyes off the screen for a while and get them on God’s beautiful creation. Find places and spaces where God’s general revelation of creation can be restorative to your body, mind, and soul. Remember the word recreation comes from re-creation, and a part of Sabbath rest is the restorative nature of nature.
Fifth, get with others. One of the gnawing ironies of our smartphone digital age is that while we have never been more connected, we have never been lonelier. While we may have a ton of Facebook friends, we have too few face-to-face friends. Incarnated relationships formed and nurtured in real time and space are a vital component of human and societal flourishing. Embrace the spiritual discipline of community. Spend regular times eating together as a family and keep your phones away from the table. Join a small group that meets regularly and attend worship services each Sunday.
Let’s be grateful for our smartphones, but let’s also get smarter in managing them. If you are looking for a good resource to read, I suggest Tony Reinke’s 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You. It is my heartfelt prayer that we live lives characterized not by distractedness, but rather attentiveness to Christ, to others, and to our own hearts.
Photo by Courtney Clayton on Unsplash