The “highway of tears,” Olivet and a prayer for our college bound students

Karla and I are not the first parents about to drive “the highway of tears” as we transport our last born child and all of his earthly belongings the 492 miles (but who’s counting) to college. As a boy, his total college belonging list includes: a pair of shoes, flip flops, a few t-shirts, a couple of hoodies, jeans, shorts, small refrigerator, an X-box system and two guitars (If he were a girl– you’d have to read an invoice three pages long– just for the shoes and accessories). I know that we are not taking Ben to the electric chair– but to an institution of higher learning (while electrifying it is hardly lethal). Still, the truth is: our lives–they are a changin’.

I trust that the college of his choice (Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois) is a fine school. They have a fine football field on which the Chicago Bears like to practice, a nice president who doesn’t want to be General Superintendent, and the largest indoor rock climbing wall north of the Mason-Dixon line (apparently the rugged students of Olivet need such a wall so they might practice scaling the peaks of the “Great Illinois Mountain Range” all winter long).

His roommate is a fine lad. Ben and he were friends at our last church– eight years ago. They really haven’t been together much in the ensuing years, and we really don’t know much about his interests or hobbies. My guess is that those interests have changed in eight years. They usually do (I haven’t seen many 18 year olds playing with Pokémon cards). So all in all, except for coming from a very fine family, we don’t know much about the young man sleeping six feet from our youngest (I seriously doubt he’s an axe murderer. Now the kid in the next room over..hmmm he might be a little shady). Ben tells us his soon-to-be roomie has a 42 inch TV. All righty then– that settles it– as far as boys are concerned–he’s “the perfect roommate.”

We don’t know the professors who will be teaching Ben (well, I know one professor. We were in college together. I hope she doesn’t remember me or if she does remember me, for Ben’s sake, I hope she doesn’t hold grudges to the next generation). We don’t know the church he will be attending (I hope he attends regularly). We don’t know the girls he might possibly ask out on dates (I tried hard at General Assembly to find him a suitable, datable young Olivetian. I’m not sure that my efforts worked). We question his dietary habits (This will shock you if you know teenage boys– he tends to eat a lot of junk food). We are concerned about his laundry and cleaning skills (I won’t talk about his bedroom in a public forum, but suffice it to say there have been times we have worried that the FBI might come looking for Jimmy Hoffa in his treacherous territory). We’ve trained and taught him and did the best we possibly could– but now he will be on his own. A fact that leaves us a little teary as we are about to drive those 492 miles.

So with the great unknown ahead for our Ben, here’s what we pray for him and all of our college students away from home:

May you never forget the lessons learned at home and in church;
May the pursuit of excellence and godliness be as strong as the pursuit of academic achievement (and higher than the pursuit of the ultimate score on the latest video game);
May these days be filled with learning and wonder and exploration and joy;
May you have fun in the dorm, in the cafeteria, in the classroom, in the gym, and throughout the campus; but not so much fun that you forget to study or do you homework.
May the friends you make be of strong moral and Christ-like character;
May you discover God’s plan and mission and purpose for your life in these years;
May in all things you long to draw closer to Jesus.

And lastly, May you call and text home frequently (not just when you need a little extra cash).

If the next time you see me, I have tear stains on my shirt– you’ll know why.

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