Things I’ve Learned from Freshmen (and Dentists)

There are some things in life that really hurt…but it’s a good kind of hurt. Do you know what I mean? Like, you can endure the pain because you know it’s really good for you or there’s something good on the other side.

Fear-of-dentist-chairI had that thought in the dentist’s chair the other week (that’s where I have all deep thoughts). I was sitting there, being gagged and gouged in the gums by every metal instrument known to man, wondering if I’d come out looking like Darth Vader. I mean, do they honestly need to spray high-powered water at my teeth? Are they just trying to see how much pressure my pearly whites can endure?

But even with all that pain, I didn’t complain. Why? The thing that kept me going was the hope of being able to feel my teeth with my tongue. You know that awesome feeling? They’re so smooth, so clean, so crisp. That feeling makes all the pain worth it…or maybe I’m just weird.

Speaking of weirdness, another weird thing about me is that I like to hang out with freshmen. And that’s where I found another one of those life moments where something hurts…and yet it’s a good kind of hurt.

Over the past year, I’ve had several occasions when one of my freshmen friends has to tell me a hard truth. Has to confront me about one of my many flaws. And it hurts. Who do they think they are? A mere freshman dares to confront a senior?!

But it’s okay. Because every time they confront me…they’re absolutely right. And I know it. The worst part is, in many instances, I realize that they’re actually on a higher spiritual plane than I am. I’m trying to mentor/influence/disciple them but they end up having to mentor me. It’s really quite sad, actually. Not on their part, but on mine.

im a sinnerIf I’ve realized anything in my short life it’s this: I’m a sinner. A pretty horrible one, in fact.

My friends make fun of me because I often say, “I’m a horrible person.” But it’s true. And I say it so much to remind me, for oh how easily I forget it! The worst part of my horribleness is my thinking I’m not horrible. I’m a very proud person–and proud of it!

But praise the Lord for the freshmen brothers in Christ that the Lord has given me. Over the past several months, they’ve confronted me or just convicted me by their life. Here, in no particular order, are some of the lessons they’ve taught me:

  • I’m an insecure person. One of my freshmen just flat-out told me this, and it was the most profitable thing anyone’s ever said to me. I need the praise of men. I feel like I have to please everybody. Yeah, I kinda act like a junior-higher. But it’s something the Lord’s been working on me on for almost a year now, and the book of Colossians has really helped.
  • I’m also a control freak. I learned this through my passion of “mentoring” freshmen. The only problem is: I like to obsess over their lives. I try to control them and get them to do as I think they should do. In my attempts to change people, even for their good, I’ve tried to become “God” for them. What’s the solution to this flaw?
  • I need to surrender people to the Lord. Another solid piece of advice from a freshman…about freshmen! I need to trust God to change a person, not try to bear that burden myself. God can be God a lot better than I can—and He has proved that He’s still in the business of changing people. Just this semester, I’ve seen Him do some things in the lives of those I was investing in, not because I jammed it down their throat (though I tried), but rather in spite of me! He’s at work—even when we don’t see any fruit.
  • So all I need to do is just care for people. This is a HUGE area of struggle for me. Just when I was trying to convict some freshmen about how they talk about people behind their backs, another freshman told me that I do the same! It’s painfully true. I slander people behind their back for not falling in line with my plan. Even in person, I try to manipulate them. You could blame it on my control-freakishness or my obsession with politics. Since I can’t control the disaster of the 2016 Republican primary, I try to control the politics of my own life and end up with an equal disaster and my own Trump as front-runner: me! (We do share a deep love of our own egos.) In my mind, people are political or social tools. But in God’s mind, they are people He died to redeem! 1 Corinthians has been an especially convicting study for me (especially that thirteenth chapter–ouch!).
  • Take the “me” out of mentoring. But not literally (“ntoring” doesn’t sound good. Still working on that). But in my quest to spread a very good, biblical practice, I also tried to spread a very bad, horrible person (me again!). I made mentoring MY idea, apparently forgetting Matthew 28:19. I don’t apologize for talking about mentoring all the time and encouraging people to disciple others, particularly freshmen. But what I do apologize for is emphasizing myself in that process. Take me out of the equation. Ignore me. Just mentor! It’s not my idea anyway…
  • Lastly, the Bible applies to all of life…and it’s exciting!! I remember helping a freshman prepare for his first sermon. It was a run-of-the-mill thing for me: exegete the passage, blah, blah, blah. But as we talked through the verses, he started getting more and more excited. I was like, “Whoa, dude, it’s just the Bible! Oh wait…” That’s my problem. Over-familiarity has bred, maybe not contempt, but at least apathy. The Bible is not as exciting to me as it once was. God forbid! In fact, another freshman told me that I don’t even bring the Bible up in conversation! I say a lot of good stuff–or at least a lot of stuff in general! Some of it may even be wise (I doubt it, but you never know). But if it’s not the Bible, what good is it? I resolve to include the Bible in more of my life, because it’s an epically-awesome Book!

keep-calm-and-love-freshmen-4Time would fail to tell of how they’ve inspired my prayer life, my evangelism, and on and on and on! Is it uncomfortable being convicted by freshmen? Yeah. Is it worth it? Boy howdy, yes! I wouldn’t trade those moments for the world. I have no regrets choosing to spend most of my senior year hanging out with freshmen–indeed, I wish I had done it more! I love freshmen, and I’m genuinely excited about what God is going to do with them! The only thing left for me and my fellow seniors to do is…get out of their way.

That hurts. But it’s a good kind of hurt.

-M@

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