The first day at college was different

August 30, 2010

We drove up the hill to Luke’s dorm, not expecting the task to be easy. After all, we had two vehicles loaded with his life. I was a little nervous about how long it would take us to lug all the stuff up four flights of stairs. I shouldn’t have worried. As we crested the hill, there were 15 students wearing orientation shirts who began to cheer as they joyfully descended upon our boxes and bags, delivering them to his new room in less than five minutes. That was how our day began, and it just kept getting better. Let me tell you about what impacted me the most on this freshman move-in day.
I was not prepared for it, that’s for sure. Even though this was our fourth child to enroll in college, nothing that had gone before had prepared me for this. I am not talking about the crying that took place in the parking lot. More about that in a moment. I am referring to the meeting that was held for the 250 new students and their parents in the auditorium. The Dean of Community Life welcomed us, followed by the president of the college and several other staff members. The student body president spoke very eloquently about her memory of sitting in the same seats as a freshman just three years ago, not having any idea what life at college would bring. She urged the students to not allow themselves to be defined by where they are from, their major, and the group of people they befriend. “Rather,” she said, “be defined by your relationship with Christ.” The president said, “We are not hoping to simply shape your life over the next four years, new students. We are hoping to help set the course for the next 60 years, preparing you to serve the Lord and to make a difference in your generation.”
Near the end of the program, the faculty, staff, administrators and the students wearing the orientation shirts spread out across the front and around the sides of the auditorium. As I glanced around, I saw that we were literally surrounded by the people who were going to shepherd our son over the next four years. I was so moved by this. I flashed back to my arrival at college in 1975, the orientation meetings, the convocation, the first day of classes. I remember standing in line in Woolen Gym for registration. I remember saying goodbye to my parents in the parking lot, turning and walking to my dorm and thinking, “What am I doing here?” What I don’t remember is anything that even remotely resembled a group of faculty and staff and upperclassmen gathering around the freshmen and their families to pray for us.
The program ended with three students leading everyone in the auditorium in singing Chris Tomlin’s song, “How Great is Our God.” The first verse says, “The splendor of a King, clothed in majesty, Let all the earth rejoice … He wraps himself in light, and darkness tries to hide, it trembles at his voice ….”
I wasn’t the only one wiping tears away in gratitude for this King who loves us.
When we said goodbye to Luke, we gathered around him in the parking lot.
Once again, he was surrounded by people who love him and have shepherded him for 19 years. I thought about Psalm 125: “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people from this time forth and forever.”
This first day at college was different. And for that, I am so grateful.