About a month ago I was sitting outside my favorite coffee shop talking with Landen, a freshman at Cal State Northridge, while sipping on a vanilla latte. He was telling me about how lonely the fall semester was for him. It came as a shock to him because he never expected college life to be this way. Initially he was excited about meeting new people and the next stage of life—you know, “the college life.” But like most college students face (at one point or another), loneliness rudely interrupted his life.
In high school, he had a lot of friends, a serious girlfriend, was president of the Christian club, and was a very good athlete. This didn’t just keep him busy, but kept him feeling good about himself and his life. But then his friends went in all different directions, things didn’t work out with his girlfriend, his superiority in sports was very different, and to top it off, he wasn’t totally sure what he was going to do with his life. He was starting at square one again.
It happens naturally and pretty much to everyone, but college freshmen typically have their entire identity tied up in their high school life. Then overnight, it is gone. When you lose your identity, you begin to question, search, and turn within to find answers. Then loneliness begins. This is the identity issue of the university world.
Up until junior high, your identity was pretty much tied to your family life. In high school, you more than likely found your identity in the group of friends you had. You felt comfortable around them, clicked with them, they understood you, and you understood them. Maybe you played sports, an instrument, or acted in the school plays. You may have even found much of your identity and self-esteem in getting good grades or possibly even your youth group. Whatever it was, you never thought about it, but you searched for and probably found your identity in something.
Now think about it for a minute. Take all these things away, and who are you? How would you define yourself? You spent four years of your life with this identity, and now, most likely, it is all going to be taken away. The struggle you will have in college is finding a new identity.
Life’s circumstances always change. Each stage of life brings different issues, struggles, joys, and pains. You cannot allow these things to define who you are. This is a lesson you will need to learn quickly.
The Scriptures talk about who we are: children of God. This is our true identity. This is where our self-esteem really comes from. We search for our identity in all kinds of things other than who we are as a Christian. The thing we need to realize is that all of our circumstances stage in school, relationships we have with people, sports we play, or even careers we have—will at some point change. The only thing that won’t change is who we are in Christ.
In college you will inevitably face lonely times and turn within to figure out who you are. The question is where will your identity and self-esteem be found? You can temporarily find it in your current circumstances or the people who are around you, but these will eventually leave you searching for something else to fill the void. At some point, hopefully sooner than later, you will find it as a Christian. Away from a church, campus ministry, sport, grade, or career…just you and God, in your personal relationship with Him.
Who are you? This is the question you will have to answer. I hope you find it in the One that will never change, never leave, and never disperse. Let the search begin…