The university setting is an excellent place to learn. This makes sense, doesn’t it? I mean, after all, the entire purpose of investing four or more years of your life into an education is that it widens your horizons and prepares you for a successful career in the modern world. That’s the plan, at least. I don’t want to delve into a broiling rant about the debatable sustainability of current higher education policy—especially since higher-ed institutions have served me quite well over the years—so I’m going to discuss something that God has recently highlighted to me. As it turns out, colleges aren’t only stellar places to learn about astrophysics, microeconomics, and ancient Greek philosophy (catch the pun?), they’re vibrant places to be instilled with the pervasively depressed, negative mindsets of contemporary times. This isn’t how it should be!
Granted, you can find numerous examples of truly peppy, infectiously joy-filled individuals on every college campus, and these folks are great to be around, leaving a smile plastered on your face for no apparent reason. But I’ve found that a jovial demeanor is the exception and not the norm. Sleepless nights spent studying, consequential examinations at every turn, and the uncertainty of future careers and life decisions all create a hefty load of stress. And when the stress builds up, what naturally follows? Fatigue, depression, and negativity.
A very famous Bible verse tells us that “…Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5 NLT). I can say from firsthand experience that a very, very large majority of college-aged individuals wouldn’t define the morning as joyous. And the night? Well, weeping over a textbook or sobbing atop a twenty page essay fit the Biblical description like a glove. Thankfully, I’m a morning person and find the rising sun a reinvigorating gift from God. Waiting for an 8:00 a.m. class to start, though, is another story. The predominant pre-class conversation in most lecture halls follows a few themes, many of which become more distraught the earlier the hour.
One theme relates to coursework and instruction. A single student will mention how the demands of such and such a course are beyond measure and before you know it everyone is criticizing their courses; their homework; and, in a heartbreaking sort of way, their professors. I acknowledge that some individuals have a gift for teaching while others do not, however, I do believe it is a noble pursuit that should be honored with respect, regardless of ability. What do many students do? Discuss all the negative personal qualities, expectations, and behavioral quirks of an instructor… within earshot of said instructor.
This rubs me the wrong way, and is in large part the inspiration for this posting. Don’t you think that a professor would have more incentive to shine if they were hearing compliments before class, not being torn down? Perhaps this is why many of the “superstar” teachers have relatively easy classes. The students have nothing to complain about and are exultant about a light workload, the professor overhears such “marks of approval” before class and thereby keeps the class simplistic to maintain student approval. It’s a self-perpetuating loop of topical learning. Admiringly, many professors—the true “superstars” of academia—are happy to get comparatively low student marks in order to ensure that their pupils are adequately educated for the real world. If it weren’t for these dedicated individuals, universities wouldn’t churn out workers prepared for the real world, economic collapse would ensue, and earth would fall into state of anarchy and mayhem. Clearly, professor sacrifice—and appreciation—are quite important! Anyways, on to pre-class conversation theme two.
It goes without saying that social life is deeply intertwined with all aspects of college. As such, many students will talk, often in abstruse ways, about their recent social behavior. From overnight escapades to binge drinking to “the party to end all parties,” it seems plenty happens in the wee hours of the morning, but I wouldn’t call it joyful or edifying. Between questionably appropriate topics of conversation and rampant expletive dropping, it’s apparent that a lecture halls is no place for sensitive ears. You could rightly classify it as an ever-evolving R-rated movie with a wide cast of characters spiraling into a dungeon of negative discourse.
There are plenty of other themes in college life that I want to discuss, but I now realize that this will be the topic of a great many future blog posts. So to cut to the chase, college is an environment ripe with negativity, however, the Apostle Paul tells us that “…where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20 ESV). I believe this applies to negative and positive mindsets as well. What does this mean? It means that since universities are full of negative and often anti-spiritual thought, they are actually ideal breeding grounds for the works of the Father. To be blunt, this is awesome, however, it’s not a laughably convenient or straightforward task to bring this holy promise to fruition. Transforming higher education into a think-tank of spiritually uplifting positive thought will require an immense amount of footwork on the part of Christian believers. In a truly beautiful exhibition of God’s power, I’ve seen many saints mobilizing to help bring in the harvest of a young, impressionable generation. Are you one of them?
In the coming months I will be writing more about the struggles that college presents to the maintenance of an upright stance before the perfection of the Trinity. Of course, I’ll also be writing about my time in the outdoors as well (how could I not?). For now, here’s a closing thought: many people think that college is one of the greatest periods in life, and in many ways it is, but it is also one of the most challenging, particularly when it comes to making a stand for the positive worldview and morals that define Christianity. In the fray of incessant negativity and an onslaught of moral depravity, it would be easy for any believer to turn from the ways of Christ, yet it’s an inspiration that many Christians pull through not only unscathed, but with a stupendously fortified level of faith. I suppose the promise that “a joyful heart is good medicine…” rings true (see Proverbs 17:22).