What I Said to My Son When I Dropped Him Off at College

Fletch here. If you've already listened to this week's episode, you know that we dropped our second son off at college last week. Nate and I drove together for 11 hours, from California to Arizona, and we had a lot of time to talk along the way.

Some of our conversations were just guy stuff, some centered around my choice of music for the drive (apparently Nate's not a fan of non-stop Willie Nelson), but I also took the time to ask him about how well he thought we had prepared him to launch into life away at college. 

You can hear what he said on our exclusive subscriber content page, which you can sign up for below. It's totally free. It's helpful to hear where we did a good job and where we might improve for his younger siblings. Maybe you can learn from our mistakes.

But the most important thing I said to Nate when I dropped him off at college?

It’s all about Jesus. 

Sounds trite, huh? If you have been a reader or listener of Homeschooling in Real Life for any length of time, what else would you expect me to say to one of my children?

Would you expect me to talk with him about experiences? Four years of university life will certainly be filled with both positive and negative experiences. When I went away to school 25 years ago, I commented that university life looked very similar to summer camp, only they expected you to study. Yes, college will be loaded with experiences, but to chase after the college experience will leave him empty when school comes to an end. No, it is all about Jesus.

Maybe you thought I would tell Nate that college was all about relationships? For the past 19 years, he was raised in our home and surrounded by our friends that we had made during our 4 years at college. Certainly, we hope our son cultivates lifelong friendships and builds great memories during his time away at school. Relationships made during college are valuable and provide opportunities for networking during the rest of life. However, relationships can fail. Friendships will be strained by distance after college. I did tell him to surround himself with people who believe that life is all about Jesus and to not be afraid to reach out to others who don’t know Him yet. It is all about Jesus.

Education? His grandparents spent the past year inflating the idea that college was was all about getting a good education. I reminded Nate that education is merely a means to an end, but a lousy substitute for Jesus. An education will definitely open a few more doors and provide a few more opportunities. Shifting his hope from God onto education is a deceptive trap though. We have encouraged all of our kids to pursue an education, but that always comes with the warning to not put their hope in education. Nope. It is not about an education, it is all about Jesus.

Religion? Maybe you thought I would encourage him about his choice to go to a Christian college and the safe learning environment with a Christian worldview? That’s great and it is certainly a blessing, but I love how our pastor prayed for him on his last Sunday in worship. He prayed that Nate would be protected from religion on a Christian campus and that he would not fall prey to putting his hope in religious behavior as a substitute for faith in Jesus. Nate gets this. It’s all about Jesus.

I remember being corrected once by a friend and pastor for suggesting that it was all about Jesus. He warned me that it stopped short of what scripture teaches. For nearly an hour he expounded on scripture and theology to explain to me how that statement could lead people living a life void of the sanctifying works God requires. His argument and his theological slices reminded me even more: It’s all about Jesus.

We shift our hope so quickly. We have talked about that for years in our church and in our home as we’ve seen relationships implode and college educations lead to endless/hopeless job searches and layoffs. That’s what Nate knows and that is what I wanted to remind him about as we parted ways. Shifting his hope onto the college experience, onto relationships, onto education or even onto religious behavior might satisfy him in the short term, but in the long run it is all about putting his hope in God. It is all about the Gospel. It’s all about Jesus.

Paul, in his letter to the church of Corinth, says this:

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

That is my hope and prayer for my son as he launches into college.