4 Pieces of Advice for College

God stirred my heart to ask them out to dinner to say goodbye before they left for college.  I wasn’t sure they’d want to come, but still, that part was easy.  It was next He quietly whispered to my soul, “You have something to give these young women, far greater than a fancy night out to dinner. I want you to tell them your story.” 

Really God?  I think they like me, you know, maybe even think I’m cool.   That would wreck everything!

“It’s time. I want you to share your story.”

I often argue with God.  I want to stomp my foot, shout and give back His “assignment”.  But I’ve learned the hard way, that’s not how living a life for Him works.

“If you love me, you will obey me,”  Jesus repeatedly says in John 14.

So, I planned the evening.  Prayed a lot.  And steeled myself to speak my story no matter the cost.  And I’m not talking about the price of dinner.

That night, after we filled up on wonderful food, I held 4 darling young women hostage as I shared about my colorful past.

I told them of my family’s hardship, my dad’s alcoholism, my parent’s divorce, my underage drinking problem, my promiscuity, my struggle to feel loved, my eventual recovery in AA.   They listened attentively, with tear-filled eyes.

I felt such tenderness and compassion from them, as if our roles were reversed…they the adults and me the fledgling youth wondering if they’d still like me after I spoke my piece.

They blessed my socks off. They were grateful, humble, and honest.  And I think we’re even better friends now.

They even asked me for a written copy of the advice I shared.  So, I figured I would put it up on the blog, in case someone else might like it too.

My 4 pieces of advice before College:  (but no matter how old, you might need this today, too.)

Four Pieces of advice

1.  Be true to who you are.  Stand firm in your convictions no matter the cost.

When I first met an adorable college student named Craig, I won’t ever forget how scared I was to share with him that I was a recovering alcoholic.  Would he still like me?  Would it be too much for him to overcome?  Nonetheless, I knew I had to stand firm.  My very life depended on it.  I wasn’t just someone who quit drinking for a month to try it out.  I had to quit forever.  Or lose my future.

Turns out that cute guy and I have been married over 22 years.  I didn’t lose myself…and I didn’t lose the guy either.

2. If you never wanted to be __________, then don’t be!  You can change.  

Most of my younger years I remember telling myself I wasn’t going to end up like my Dad, an alcoholic who’d lost everything.  I swore I wouldn’t take that path!

Until the morning I woke up in a fraternity house as a freshman in college with zero recollection of what had happened the night before.  Yep.  I was squarely where I said I would never be.  It took me a few more months of struggle, mistakes and pain, but in February of my freshman year, I quit drinking.

This year, I celebrated 25 years of sobriety.

By the grace of God. 

3.  Don’t let your pride stand in the way of heeding good advice. 

I’ll never forget my first AA meeting. I was 18, the man sitting across from me was about 100.  Ok, he was in his 70’s but he sure felt old to me!

His wise words directly to me are some I’ll never forget,

“You might look around these tables and see people 4 times your age who have lost everything and think to yourself, I’m not as bad off as them.  I still have everything going for me.  But I suggest you take what we’re offering now, freedom from alcohol.  Don’t wait 40 years to figure it out, because I promise you the road will be painful, and you’ll still end up here, but only if you’re lucky.”   

Freedom is what I found in those rooms.  And I didn’t have to be a wise old man to know it.  I just had to be willing to lay aside my pride at the ripe old age of 18.

I am convinced, had I stayed on that path, I would not have the life I have today.

4.  If it feels wrong…it probably is.

In my teen years, I struggled deep in my soul because I knew lying, cheating, stealing, drinking, and having sex were wrong.  I was raised better.  But I chose to cave to the pressures, the seeming excitement, the temporary feelings of acceptance.  I knew there was a God in my life who disagreed with those choices.  But I put him on the back burner.

If it feels wrong.  It is.

When you are in the center of God’s will for your life, you will feel his perfect peace and joy.  You won’t feel terrible, remorse-filled and guilt-ridden.

You will feel free.

Question: What advice would you give your 18-year-old self? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Sarah Beckman inspires people from the stage and on the page. She is the bestselling author of Alongside: A Practical Guide for Loving your Neighbor in their Time of Trial, which is filled with practical tools to love people well in the rough patches of life. Sarah speaks to audiences across the country on topics such as loving your neighbor, sharing your faith, safeguarding your marriage and digging up your talents.

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8 thoughts on “4 Pieces of Advice for College

  1. Choose your friends very, very wisely! How you spend your time, who you spend your time with and how you spend your money can all be key in the make up of your character. What do you want that to look like? Surround yourself with good people who make wise decisions, for they are the ones who will help you get to heaven some day. Make sure you have a solid relationship/friendship with the Lord. He will always be there for you wherever you are. One last thing…call your parents more often and say thank you & I love you!

  2. Good for you Sarah…sometimes it is not easy to be obedient…. You were certainly a Blessing to those girls that night and offer encouragement and inspiration to myself and many others — thanks for your honesty.

    Advice to my 18 year old self?… It is not about you… i repeat.. it is NOT about You… Get involved with a Bible teaching church and a Christian student group to surround yourself with those kids who do want to be obedient and follow Jesus as Lord- get a Bible and read it each day and ask questions of those who can help you grow in your faith, find a godly person who can mentor you and help you deepen your relationship with Christ. And ALWAYS REMEMBER GOD LOVES YOU UNCONDITIONALLY AND HE IS FOR YOU. Oh to have the faith and heart knowledge of what I now know – way back then…. think of all the mistakes and heartache that could have been avoided— and yet Praise God for in His mercy he uses those mistakes for His good purpose.

  3. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
    Sarah is living proof of this promise of God’s Word. Sarah, though you shared your story with me many ago, it is long forgotten in my memory because the “new” Sarah is so far removed from the “old” Sarah. Although you were not born again when you made that decision to turn from your sins at 18 and to start making good choices, it was still God that gave you the strength to do so. I think God used that somehow later in your life when you again looked squarely at your sins, but this time repented of those sins and trusted in Jesus. “Behold”: the “new” Sarah.

    • Pam, what a treasure you are to me. You said so well what was not covered in this post…the journey to Christ was still a ways off at 18! But I believe as you said, God used that all to move me toward him slowly, and steadily until I fully understood and accepted him as my Savior. I believe his hand of protection was upon me, saving me by his grace for a future life sold out for Him. And I know that the reason I can speak so freely with no shame is because he has made me new! ( I did share that with the girls that night too! thankfully…) I am delighted by his grace, your friendship and key role in showing me a real Jesus I could have faith in, and your continued friendship. Much love to you friend, and faithful servant of our Most High God.

  4. Thank you for sharing this awesome truth-filled message. Why do we choose our pride instead of God’s freedom? Why do we choose our own limited, and often twisted, understanding instead of the expressed Word of the Creator of the universe? Why do we cast aside the real love and acceptance of Jesus and choose instead counterfeits that do not satisfy, do not last, and only serve to ensnare us? I don’t know…… To all who may read this note: please continue to pray for the young people of this country. And reach out to those with whom you have influence. It matters.