Last weekend I flew back to UC Davis where I went to college. I was there for a 20 year reunion of the Iota Chapter of a Christ-Centered fraternity called Alpha Gamma Omega, of which I was one of nine founders on the Davis campus. Seven of the nine returned for the reunion and a grip of men who have been a part of it since.
As I turn students towards our local high school graduations in the coming months, here's some of my personal convictions about this next season of life they are headed into.
GETTING OUT OF THE HOUSE IS ONE OF THE GREATEST MATURITY STEPS A YOUNG ADULT CAN TAKE. Perhaps the greatest gift I was given in my early adulthood years was the gift of going a few hours away to college. The memories I have of dorm life and the Arlington farms apartments are priceless. I learned so much about life and myself in those few years. As a result, I'm a huge fan of students living with a small group of their peers and sharing a rental. I encourage all my seniors, even the ones who stay local, to find a way to get out and grow up. Game on.
I BELIEVE THAT COMMUNITY IS CREATED ALMOST EXCLUSIVELY THROUGH SHARED EXPERIENCES. Getting involved in our church's college ministry, starting a fraternity, living together with friends and almost no money or possessions, studying in groups, taking risks, going to retreats, playing sports and so much more... dang... it all molded me and bonded us together. Our community and connection is so deeply rooted in the things we did together and the obstacles we overcame. There really is no replacement for it in ministry. As I send a group of students off again, the inner sense that they were or were not a part of something great through Encounter High School Ministry is directly proportional to our shared experiences together.
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS CASUAL DATING AT THIS STAGE OF LIFE. I took Shannon back to the ranch where I popped the question. It was the first time in 19 years that we'd been back and honestly, we wondered if we could even find it. But I followed my gut and found the ranch again just a few miles from where I'd spent countless hours on another ranch in college. However the gate was locked that led to it and the owners have probably changed so we couldn't get to the exact spot. But there in the distance we remembered as we starred at that big oak tree that I had a dozen red roses waiting decades ago. We lingered for a half an hour or so and reminisced and cried over so much that has happened in our lives together. Our college dating life (and in our case- even high school) has literally shaped our marriage, our family, our kid's lives, our careers, and virtually every other area imaginable in our lives. I have to keep encouraging students to date smart. It really is a potential life-altering decision they are making.