Tomorrow is my 20th first day at The Master’s University. I’ll take a picture of my first day for my mom, like I have done many times before–I’ve spent all but 8 years of my life engaged in formal education, and the academic rhythm feels as natural as the sunrise. Counsel, advise, teach, cheer, encourage, admonish, mourn, receive, worship, breathe, and do it all again. Sometimes, all in one day.
As we both get ready for a new year, dear Freshman, I have something else I wanted to share with you. Not being anxious and remembering your purpose are good places to start, but add to those this: Growth comes through Discomfort.
I remember in first grade going to the hospital for X-Rays. I was regularly in pain–my legs hurt all the time and my parents weren’t sure what was going on. “She’s growing fast,” the doctors told them. Growth pains. I physically ached because of the stretching taking place in my short little body.
Orientation may have already brought some forms of growth pains: meeting new people, sleeping in a strange room with an odd roommate, figuring out how to get lettuce off the circular salad bar without knocking somebody over. And the first week of classes is going to pile on. “Syllabus Shock.” It’s a real thing. And so are the hundred other ways you are going to feel stretched over the next semester. . .year. . .or 4. Classes are going to kick you in the backside. Trauma at home may kick you in the teeth. You are going to fail a test or a friend.
Expect discomfort. Embrace it when it comes because walking through the trials brings maturity. James 1 has been a significant passage in my thinking about growth and discomfort recently. James instructs his readers at the very beginning of his epistle:
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
The new believers who received James’ letter were facing persecution everywhere they turned–from the Jews and the Romans. And yet, James says that trials of various kinds are a reasons for joy. He knew that the believer develops in maturity as they walk through testing. He even says later in the passage that testing, discomfort, trials are really a gift from a good God.
Discomfort, failure, testing won’t always feel like a gift. As a matter of fact, some moments will feel like a good time to curl-up-in-the-fetal-position-and-cry-in-the-corner. Growth hurts. But prevailing through it brings a steadiness of soul.
Feel free to show your ignorance. Ask questions in class. Admit that you don’t know how to do some common activity. Sit by someone you don’t know and strike up a conversation. Find the one person in a room who would be the hardest for you to talk to. Initiate a lunch with a professor you have never met. Do hard things. Stretch, strain, learn, grow, and do it all over again. Sometimes, all in one day.
So, go ahead, grab your Holly Hobbie lunchbox, pin your apple name tag on, and get ready to see your God stretch you for your good and His glory. And don’t forget to send a picture to your mom!