God will open doors with the best surprises behind them if you let him lead you. I just completed my first semester of college at the University of Dallas. It was a rollercoaster. I have never been happier, but it did not come without hardship. Academic, social and spiritual struggles were always plentiful. I first tried to tackle them by myself but remembered how poor of a strategy that is. I quickly turned to God and watched as things became bearable. Things were not easier, but they were for him and his plan.
I have never been more in charge of my own life. I was two states away from home in a world full of strangers. The ball was in my court. Every decision I made was without outside influence. My independence gave me liveliness like a fogged windshield being cleared before driving through a cold morning. I’ve held onto the virtues my faith gave me, and I can reminisce on the semester without shame or anxiety.
Nonetheless, I started operating independently. Instead of seeing the independence as a gift from God that was not mine to own, I clutched it tightly with balled hands. Life happens, and eventually my own flawed judgment led me back to God. I went for a long walk and found a space to pray. I spoke out loud to God like a crazy person, but I felt anything but crazy. I felt at ease. I surrendered my worries to him, and he heard me.
Nothing became easier. Academics only got harder, and finding the balance between work and play seems to be a continuous struggle. People still let me down, and I did the same to them, but it was OK. The moment I began to allow God to lead me, I remembered there was nothing I would have to face that he would not face with me.
My self-respect grew as I saw his love. My studies sharpened, I exercised harder, I wrote more, and I slept better. God gives me the will to acknowledge my dreams and turn them into goals. He shows me right and wrong. Keeping him at the forefront of life is extremely difficult but worth it.
Prioritizing God does lessen everything else, but that is how things ought to be. Socializing should not be as stressful as most find it to be, the same way that academics should not cripple students with dread. While it is easier said than done, making God our greatest concern eases the tension in other aspects of life.
While friends are an amazing source of joy, most come and go. Friends cannot be our ultimate end, as we are flawed beings who seek completion in something beyond life on Earth. College has forced me to explore the balance of loving friends while keeping God first. God wants us to experience friendship; it is a gift unique to intellectual beings. God also wants us to be ready to let go of friendships that ought to end. Life pulls people together just as it pulls people apart. Letting go can be difficult. Whether it is for better or worse, the mind likes to focus on one assignment, person or idea more than it should. Letting Christ lead causes our own personal concerns to shrink to the size they ought to be. When we seek courage from God, he strengthens us to let go of what has reached its natural end while eventually instilling us with hope for what is to come. When we lead our own lives, we shrink. When God leads, he never lacks.
Gianni Squillace is a freshman at the University of Dallas. St. Vincent de Paul Church in Rogers is his home parish.
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