I was filled with excitement the day my parents brought me to Clemson University as an incoming freshman. My parents’ Ford Expedition and my blue, and practically vintage, Mercedes Benz were packed full with all the stuff I thought I would need for the next four years. Four years. It seemed like an eternity! I would miss them and my two younger brothers who came with us. How much I wished that my older brothers could have been there too!
As we drove around Clemson’s hilly campus in search of my dorm, I felt like I was officially entering a new chapter in my life. And I was. What I didn’t realize how so very fast those four years would fly by. And while it was a new chapter, it was in many ways an “Introduction” into my adult life. I would still be under my parent’s authority as a college student, but I would also have a new level of independence. There were daily decisions I would be making that my parents would never even know about. This was the time in my life when the secrets of my heart would be revealed. No one was monitoring my schedule or asking me where I was headed each time I left my dorm. I had more freedom than I had ever had before. What would I do with it? Would I assimilate into the culture around me or would I make faith-based choices that would inevitably set me apart?
I had put my faith in Jesus Christ as a young child. It wasn’t just a “decision” I made because I was raised in a Christian family. It wasn’t just because I was raised in the “Bible-belt,” although I am thankful to have grown up in an environment where many loved the Lord or at least had a respect for Christian values. Even as a child, I was gripped by the reality of my sin and need for forgiveness. This was God’s grace in my life. Even though I would grow in my understanding of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, my love for Christ was genuine. He had loved me first and given His life for me and I wanted to live for Him, no matter the cost.
Because of my faith in the Lord and my desire to possibly serve in ministry one day, I initially hoped to attend a Christian university for my undergraduate studies. But as my senior year of high school arrived, the Lord began to guide me in a different direction through the leadership of my parents.
During high school, I spent my summers doing mission work in Ukraine. Our church held Vacation Bible School camps in villages. Even though I couldn’t speak Russian or Ukrainian, the Lord used those summers to show me how much I loved teaching children. I wanted to do it not just abroad, but in America too.
Before high school, I babysat and nannied from the time I was twelve when my mom signed me up for the American Red Cross Babysitting Course at our local YMCA. I learned how to properly change diapers, attend to skinned knees and tummy aches, and perform CPR. When I “graduated,” I was overly proud of my official babysitter’s certificate. But the more time I spent with children, the more God placed in my heart the desire to be more than a child caretaker. I wanted to build into children’s lives.
When it came time to decide which college I should attend, my parents helped me think through the desires and gifts God had given me.
Where did I see myself in 5 years? 10 years? With my gifting and talents, what major would I personally benefit most from if God blessed me with a husband and children one day? What kind of degree would benefit me if God wanted me to be single for a time or forever? If God blessed me with a family, what if I needed to work outside the home for a season?
I’m thankful my parents helped me think through those kinds of questions because I know I wouldn’t have asked all of them on my own. How could I? I was only 18.
As I look back on this decision-making time in my life, I am more convinced than ever how incredibly important it is for a high school girl to look to her parents for advice – especially if and where she should attend college. It’s immature for a high school student to think that he or she should make big life decisions without the guidance of parents or teachers or pastors. Scripture advises everyone, no matter how old, to seek advice from wise counselors (Proverbs 15:22). As a person listens to wisdom, he or she will gain more of it (Proverbs 9:9).
As a high school student under my parent’s authority, I knew God’s will for my life would not run contrary to my parents’ authority over me. Authority structures are God’s design, and it’s impossible for a society to function without them.
God had given parents to me, and while under their authority, God would use them to help direct my path, even if at times I didn’t always agree with them. This doesn’t mean that parents are always right. Sometimes they can be terribly wrong. But no matter what the circumstances, as long as parents are not requiring a sinful choice, children are called to honor them and while under their roof, obey them. (Ephesians 6:2-3).
Obeying my parents was really about trusting God. Did I trust God to lead through them?
As we prayed and decided about where I should attend college, it became clear that Early Childhood Education or Elementary Education would be a good choice of study for me. I started filling out applications for the two universities in my state that had excellent teaching programs: University of South Carolina and Clemson University.
My brothers are USC fans. They didn’t understand why I’d even consider becoming a Clemson Tiger. My brother, Jordan, who was a student at USC at the time made sure I got a phone call from the then President, Dr. Sorensen.
Dr. Sorensen called my cellphone! My cellphone! “I heard you’re thinking about becoming a Clemson Tiger. You don’t need to make that mistake.”
Thanks, Jordan. Now I feel really bad about applying to Clemson. Well, not really.
After visiting Clemson’s campus in the spring, my heart was set on it. I felt at home there. The people were incredibly kind, the campus was beautiful, and the education program was excellent.
I loved the orange everywhere. The hills. The many southern accents. The sunsets.
When I received my acceptance letter in the mail, I ate a whole king size Butterfinger bar to celebrate.
I was a Clemson Tiger.
to be continued…