By Kedrick Nettleton, Faith Editor
Entering my last semester at OBU, I’m struck by how much things have changed.
When I came to Bison Hill for the first time, I had no idea what to expect.
I was transferring away from my dream school in Chicago, and I was leaving behind some of my closest friends I’d ever made.
Confusion was the default state that I found myself in; I didn’t know if I was even supposed to be in Oklahoma.
What if I’d messed up God’s plan for my life by moving back?
What if I wasn’t going to like OBU or be able to find a place for myself on campus?
This confusion and lack of certainty led to some distance in my relationship with God, and I found myself really struggling in my faith.
I didn’t want to go to church; I didn’t want to pray. I felt let down, and simultaneously like I had let God down.
No two college experiences are exactly the same, but leaving home and going to school are impactful and world-shaping events for everyone.
For Christians, the college years are especially formative, as people begin to shape spiritual habits for themselves apart from their parents or their mentors back home.
Here’s some spiritual advice that I wish someone would have told me when I first stepped foot onto Bison Hill.
1. Get involved with a local church – and stick with it.
According to research done by Lifeway, 70 percent of young adults who attended church in high school dropped out at some time in college, and I’m convinced that much of this stems from discomfort getting planted at a new church. It can be awkward going to a new place and meeting new people – and without your family there to go with you, it’s tempting to just hit snooze. But be diligent, find a church you feel comfortable worshipping in, and get involved.
2. Don’t take chapels for granted.
I get it – chapels can be a challenge. Stuck in the middle of the morning, you’re not really thinking about getting in the right head space for worship. You’re thinking about that quiz you have later or in the day, or a paper you have to write, or the way you couldn’t sleep last night because the people above you in the dorms sound like they’re dropping bricks all night. But some of the sweetest moments of worship I’ve had during my time here have come at “busy” chapels. Go ready for God to speak to you.
3. Use the resources available to you.
OBU puts people in your life that want to help you grow in your faith. It can be awkward putting yourself out there, but do it. Have lunch with your RA and tell them what’s going on in your life. Ask your RD some of those questions you have. This is something I definitely wish I would have done.
4. Ask questions.
There’s a misconception among Christians that it’s not okay to question or have doubts, but these are important steps to take in the faith. It’s not all supposed to make sense right away, and college is the perfect time to ask questions and figure out why we believe what we do. Ask your pastor, talk to your friends and engage in debate. This is healthy.
5. Get involved with a local ministry.
Again, OBU makes this easy for us. Go to the Spiritual Life office and see what opportunities there are to serve on campus or around town. I guarantee, there’s more than you think, and there’s something that fits your interests and abilities. Don’t just use your college years to be served – get out there and help others.
6. Get out of the OBU bubble.
Go out into Shawnee. There’s more to this town than OBU, and it’s important to spend some time away from campus. Strike up a conversation with people out in the community; spend time at local businesses (there’s more than just The Gathering Place). How can we serve a community if we’re not in it?
7. Get therapy.
Therapy certainly isn’t for everyone, but it can be extremely helpful to some. OBU offers a high-quality psychiatry clinic and it’s free for students. Whether you find yourself filled with anxiety or seriously depressed, the OBU MFT clinic has trained professionals who are there to help you. Don’t be afraid to reach out and get help if you need it.
8. Take time to rest.
There’s no way around it: college is stressful. You can’t survive going full speed all the time. Take some time for yourself. Read a book, get coffee, go to the city, or take a Saturday to binge a Netflix show. And then spend some time with God, because that will truly recharge you.