This post follows last week’s Confessions of a Tiger Mom Failure post.
Growing up, I got a double message about college. Mama would regularly announce, “You’re going to UH.” The University of Hawaii, where my father taught physics, sat 1.5 miles from my home.
At the same time, my parents sent me on college tours my junior year when we happened to live in New York. I visited Harvard and Brown, then flew out to the Midwest and visited U of Minnesota, U Madison, Northwestern and U of Chicago. My parents said to one another, “The Midwest has good solid people with good solid values.” Their knowing looks communicated loud and clear that they’d love some good solidity to balance out my crazy radical bent.
Despite these mixed messages I knew what they were actually communicating. They stated the bald facts emphatically because they didn’t want me to be disappointed. I was going to UH because there was no other possibility. We couldn’t afford a mainland college on Baba’s professor’s salary and the small home my parents had bought for $46K was now worth $500K, ruling out financial aid. But I knew they hoped beyond hope that some miracle would let me go anyway.
So I started praying that God would show me which college to attend by providing the finances for me to go, and please please please could that college be on the mainland? And please please pretty please could it be Brown?
When the acceptances rolled in, sure enough, no financial aid. Fat envelope after fat envelope gave a little ego boost, but dashed my mainland dreams. . . until the day envelopes came from Brown and Northwestern. As we drove home from school and I looked at the financial aid package, I whispered, “Mama, I think Northwestern gave me money.”
Brakes screeched as she pulled to the curb, grabbed the papers out of my hand and said, “No, that can’t be.” She looked them over, then burst into tears. Northwestern was the only school that didn’t consider our house an asset that should be sold to enable my college education.
I was going to the mainland for college.
God’s clear answer to prayer. Because God cares where you go to college, right?
Yes. And no.
On one hand, God absolutely cares about whether you go to college, where you go to college and how you’ll pay for college. If God knows every lily in the field and sparrow in the air and hair on your head, of course he cares about such a big decision! After all, God the Father is the ultimate parent—and most American parents care at least a smidgen about their kids’ college educations.
But on the other hand, no. I don’t think God particularly cares which college you attend or which institution will best actualize your potential.
The “Does God have one college for me?” question’s remarkably similar to the “Is there only one person I should marry?” question. And in both cases, I think God gives us the chance to exercise wisdom through discernment, and mostly cares how we faithfully love and serve the college/spouse we choose.
God’s doesn’t care so much where we go, but what we make of college when we get there–how we walk with Him, engage our campus and love those we encounter. Whatever college you (or your child) attends, there will be opportunities to learn, people to befriend, ideas to wrestle with, work to do, bridges to build and boundaries to cross.
I love the vision of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship:
Every college you could attend will give you the chance to be transformed, become a world changer, and renew your campus.
Was I sad to not attend Brown? Frankly, yes. But that didn’t stop me from sucking my Northwestern experience dry—especially since being out of my Chinese home meant I could do extra-curricular activities galore!
God loves you. God loves whatever campus you’ll go to—and wants you to love it too.
Go for it.