“College is your time to be selfish.”
I distinctly remember uttering those words.
As an 18 year old, I left my hometown and headed 12 hours away to a university full of strangers. I wanted it that way. I was excited to distance myself from my high school, community, and family– not because I didn’t love them but because I was ready for a season that was all about me.
No family obligations, no church obligations, no friends or community expectations that would hold me back. After all, college is a time to be selfish. It’s the only four years you get that’s all about you.
Or so I thought.
Last week, I sat through Belmont University’s baccalaureate service where four students shared their stories of life transformation. They were powerful, riveting, and inspiring. Why?
It wasn’t about them.
Of course it was their story about how God had changed and grown them, but really they were just the narrating voice of stories about God and others. They had been inspired to think outside of themselves and live a life that was focused outward.
If we go into college– or any season of life– with the expectation that it can be all about us we are making a detrimental mistake.
1. The way you live during your college years isn’t isolated from the rest of your twenties.
You are setting up patterns and habits that will carry into your young adult years. So, if you spend your four year college experience thinking it’s all about you, you are highly likely to carry that on into your twenties, thirties, and so on.
Have you ever met a grown adult who still thinks life is all about them? I bet you have and it’s not pretty. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that the way you live in college won’t have an influence on your adult life. Your college lifestyle will either propel you into adulthood or you’ll spend the next decade recovering from how you lived. It’s your choice.
You can choose to be all about YOU or all about God and others. And the way you choose in college will impact the way you live as an adult.
2. When you make it all about you, you lose the richness of life.
When the Pharisees questioned Jesus on the greatest commandment, Jesus responded:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-38)
People love to use that verse as an example that we need to love ourselves, but the point of that verse is that it is assumed that as the selfish human beings we are– we already love ourselves– and to be called to love God and others more than we love ourselves is a high calling. Now, I know we have issues of self-loathing in our culture today– and that is a discussion for another time, but the bottom line is this.
God, others, then you.
That should be the order of our priorities and heart. And that’s not just because it’s a great “commandment” and helps us live a good life– it’s actually what gives us a rich and abundant life. Life focused on self is empty, shallow, and celebration-less. When life is about God’s story and community it is full, messy, and beautiful.
There is no such thing as a “time to be selfish.”
That is a lie from our culture that only steals the real joy, depth, growth, and meaning God intends for us to experience. Don’t be fooled. I don’t know about you, but I want to live a life that is about God, others, and then me. I want the messiest, richest, most meaningful life I can have on this earth and it starts by getting those three things in their proper order.