Freshers need to know that they have choices.
As my friends and I were praying for the new intake of students this year, these words really resonated with me. In amongst the world of hall rivalry and almost cult-like community, it can be hard to know this truth for yourself as a student coming to university for the first time. You arrive, having barely time to dump your stuff in your room and send your parents off with a very brisk hug, and before you know it you’re sardined into a sweaty common room being commanded to chant obscenities about people in the other halls… (people that you’ll actually probably be very good friends with in a few months time). Fast forward a few hours and you’ll find yourself among other first-years, sweaty and stinking of alcohol, and all feeling the pressure to belong to the world you’ve just been catapulted into. To embrace the excessive drinking, disregard for other peoples personal space or boundaries, and casual sex as something that ‘you just do’ when you’re a fresher.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against going out and having a great time. Some of my favourite nights out have involved yelling along to the Lion King in Fusion and dancing my little heart out to Justin Bieber. But when I see freshers just following the culture set by the students on the hall committees, seemingly without a thought, part of me just feels the need to say – you can say no! If only students would channel their rebellious nature to challenge the very ‘rebellious’ culture that they have walked into. I wish students would do this because I believe that there is a better way to live than the one set by popular student culture.
Unfortunately, it’s often the case that the things that pull you in, the excessive drinking, sleeping around, and risk-taking, aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. At the end of the night, when you have drunk your sorrows so deep in alcohol that you can barely stand, or when you wake up the next morning having given half your heart to someone who will only brush it off their shoulder as they leave- what have you really gained from it all?
In the Bible, Jesus tells us that sometimes there are people that we may follow (‘hired hands’), who disappear very quickly when everything doesn’t quite go to plan! I think this is a lot like when we are tempted to follow the ideas of the world or of a certain time period or culture and hold them as number one. We may for a time find acceptance and approval by conforming to these ideas, but fast forward a few years and what comfort can you find in them?
Instead, Jesus challenges us to hold true to the ‘true shepherd’, which is himself and his guidance. This is guidance that holds firm throughout every generation, culture or university intake- and guidance that will not leave you feeling empty in five years time- but confident that He has lead you into safety, care and a life lived to the fullest! So take courage, and don’t be pushed into fitting into the culture without even thinking about it.
It’s okay to say no!
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” (John 10:11-13)
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me […] I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock and one shepherd”. (John 10:14-16)