Last weekend, my youngest daughter and I toured two of the handful of colleges she’s hoping to visit by fall.
Of the two parochial and two public universities we’ve explored so far, each offers attributes and amenities I couldn’t have dreamed of during my own college days. State-of-the-art wellness facilities, popular coffee bars and technology at the ready for all are just a sampling.
All four campuses revealed both beautiful, artsy aspects and shiny new construction, as well as well-worn spots where multitudes of young, curious students have trod.
Reviewing my past through my daughter’s future, I couldn’t help but take note of signs of both God’s presence and where God seemed absent in these institutions of higher learning.
I wondered how many college students realize, even on campuses where God isn’t overtly acknowledged, that without people of faith, the university system as we know it wouldn’t exist. The oldest European university, in Bologna, Italy, was founded in 1088 by the Christian church. And that’s just the start of a long list of others.
It’s easy, and all too common, to overlook our own origins, or for others to accuse believers of lacking in critical thinking. Historically, however, that was not the case, nor is it today, in my experience.
On that note, even at the ginormous University of Minnesota campus, a public university, I was heartened to find a Scripture passage written in chalk on the sidewalk, from Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
As parents of faith, we need to share these facts with our children who are near launching, and remind them that God will be near, wherever in the world they go.
But it stretches beyond facts of who founded universities.
At each campus we visited, I admired the stunningly manicured portions with delight, asking myself, why do our hearts yearn for beauty? Couldn’t a gray world, without color, without shape, without music, have done just as well if we’re truly on this earth only to become productive, and not to learn to love?
Checking off our list of things to know by registration deadline, I challenged my daughter to also devise a plan for making room for God in her new life.
While I can’t follow her to college, I pray the seeds I’ve tried to help sow in her will flower as she reaches out into the world. I pray she will see the places where God is, and isn’t, and know which is the better.
No matter what her future holds, I know God will be in it, waiting and ready to love and walk with her, in every moment.
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on July 29, 2017.]