Reflecting Back on College
Jim Daly Jim Daly is president and chief executive officer of Focus on the Family, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping families thrive.
- 2013 Mar 14
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of engaging with a group of college students from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. As I shared in my previous blog post, our time together led to spirited, honest dialogue that I was told later inspired some students to have meaningful conversations about Jesus and Christianity.
That evening brought back to mind my own time in college. As I shared with the young people at UCCS, although I was a Christian during my undergrad days, I spent long stretches of time reading my text books, but not reading my Bible. I was caught up in the things of this world.
Looking back, the experience reminds me there’s a constant search that occurs in someone’s heart when they lack a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. There’s a void that needs to be filled. When you couple the need to fill that heart-vacuum with the sometimes-reckless tendencies of youth, it’s easy to see the potential for many things to run askew.
As Barna Group President David Kinnaman describes in his book UnChristian, people aged 16 to 29 are engaged in a “nearly constant search for fresh experiences and new sources of motivation.” That can help explain why many young people struggle with addictions and engage in extreme behavior – it’s really an attempt to fill the void and to find what God made us for. That train of thought is what led Scottish writer Bruce Marshall to startlingly (but accurately) say, “The young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God.”
This hunger for the next, new “high” is understandable. Apologist and thinker Ravi Zacharias lists in his book Recapture the Wonder the things that fill our sense of meaning, and the search for wonder is among those things. Think about the child, discovering the world – the simplest thing fills him with awe, and every day is new.
Yet, as Ravi points out, “The older you get, the more it takes to fill your heart with wonder.”
And so we search out meaning and wonder in different ways; we push our boundaries and try to do things “our way,” running from God’s “constricting” laws. The tragedy, though, is that, in doing so, we don’t realize we’re actually turning our backs on the One who would fulfill our deepest desires!
The conclusion to Mr. Zacharias’ quote explains it best:
“The older you get, the more it takes to fill your heart with wonder, and only God is big enough to fill it. Meaning comes from wonder, truth, love and security. And God, who is the perpetual novelty, who gave us the son who is the way, the truth and the life, who loved you and gave himself for you on the cross and says, ‘Because I live you shall live also.’ That’s when meaning comes in.”
Think about that: God is our perpetual novelty.
This is why I am comforted by the fact I will never have God completely figured out. I love that part of Him will remain a mystery for as long as I live on this earth. I am grateful that I’ll never fully grasp “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” because it “surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:18-19).
I am humbled to be loved by a God who can answer Job’s challenging questions by saying, “Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!” (38:4-5).
Isaiah says, “Truly, you are a God who hides himself” (45:15) – and I am glad. Perhaps He “hides” himself so He may be found by us.
I’m grateful that in my senior year of college I heeded the Holy Spirit’s call to more fully seek God and enter into a closer relationship with Jesus. That moment has marked a lifetime of adventure with purpose that has ultimately given me the honor of helping families here at Focus.
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