“I’m going to go by ‘Eric’.” That’s what I had decided when I arrived at college. For years, since fifth grade, everyone in school called me by my last name; they had created puns on my last name and some had even begun to think it was my first name. I wanted to be new; to have something different characterize me than when I was in New York. “I’m on my own now… almost. I’m in a different state. I’m starting a new phase of life. And my name is Eric.” Within the first hour of arriving in my dorm room I met my R.A. and introduced myself by my name. “Oh,” he responded, “We already have an Eric, we’ll just call you Targe.” And there I was again: Targe-Mahal, Targeinator, Targey Wargey, and the ever-so-unfortunate Re-Targe (I still resent that last one).
It’s not easy to recreate yourself but it’s a desire most college students resonate with: how do I break that old mold and become a new me? If you’re in the camp of those who desire an extreme college makeover, here are some tips that might be helpful as you pick up the nail, and hammer.
Wanting to Change Is NOT (Necessarily) Wrong.
It’s not so much a tip as an affirmation. There are so many songs and commercials today saying, “Just be you,” “Don’t change who you are.” These statements fit well into a take me or leave me culture, claiming to not be concerned with how others view them. But as Christians we are called to constant change (1 Thess. 5:23; 2 Cor. 5:17; Heb. 10:14) and to be aware of how others see us (Col. 1:22); quite simply we are supposed to be transforming (Rom. 12:2).
Know Who to Change For.
I think of Billy Joel singing, “Don’t go changing to try and please me.” Don’t we hear some version of this all throughout society? On the TV show The Biggest Loser what do they always tell the people? “If you’re going to change it has to be for you. Not for someone else.” Okay, Culture…here I go…NO! Don’t change for you. Change for someone. Change for Jesus (if that sounds corny to you, you might need to change).
One of the many uses and purposes of Scripture is to instruct believers in change (2 Tim. 3:16). All throughout Scripture we have instruction for how to be different. Romans 12:2 gives two options for change: 1. Change for the world. 2. Change for God (be transformed by him). Either way, you will be changed as time progresses; the real question is ‘how’.
Make Supraficial Changes.
Read that one again. Not superficial, skin deep and truly meaningless changes, but supra-ficial, changes that transcend bodily and cultural parameters and are authentic (the apostle Paul made up words at times, why cant I?). I thought my first two years of college would have been the catalyst into a completely new, more likeable, better me. I was so very wrong. Ask anyone who knew me in my first two years of college, I was much worse. My goal was to be “more spiritual,” “more moral,” “more passionate,” “more friendly.” I ended up being the opposite of each of those and having to say sorry to many people. All in all I wanted a different appearance, but not to be a different person.
Here’s how to make supraficial changes instead of superficial ones. Aim to be more holy. This means a deeper engagement with the person of Jesus Christ. Increase your time reflecting on Scripture; increase your time in prayer. Maybe you’re going through the Bible in a year; consider putting that vigorous reading schedule down and focus on reading and meditating on the Gospels, rediscovering the person of Jesus Christ. Where you find inconsistencies between your life and His, write those down and make daily resolutions to conform yourself to His image.
Get a Journal.
Because cool people use Moleskines (that’s a joke). It doesn’t have to be a Moleskine, but purchasing and using a journal is a great way to track real change if that’s what you’re after. The English Puritans were amazing at this; they used their journals like it was no one’s business, writing their thoughts and reflections and even their prayers (check out The Valley of Vision it’s so helpful for transforming your prayer life). Let a journal help you in your extreme college makeover:
- Write down your reflections on inconsistencies between you and Christ.
- Write down your resolutions for transformation.
- Write down your prayers so that you see how God has been answering them and transforming you.
Be transformed during your time in college. So many students grow stagnant in their faith during their college years, let this be a time of exponential growth, preparing you not only to work in whatever profession your are aiming toward but to prepare you to bring and live out the gospel wherever it is that God sends you.
Change. For Christ. Supraficially. With a Journal.