Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

August 20, 2006


What advice can you give a grandson going away to college?


          Our grandson Joseph Albritton is 18 now and leaving home for college this month. He has enrolled in Pensacola Junior College and plans to live with his other grandparents in that coastal city. 

          So what advice can I give him as he begins this journey? A better question might be: Should I offer him any advice at all? I don’t recall my parents giving me much counsel. I remember my mother stood in the yard crying as I drove away. My dad, a man of few words, simply said, “Do your best, son.” Perhaps that was enough.

          However, since I am not a man of few words, I am constrained to say more – and to give it in writing. So bear with me and try to decide if my advice has merit in your opinion.

          First, I must be honest and tell Joseph not to follow my example. I wasted my first year at Auburn. My study habits were poor. I majored in fun while enjoying the freedom of being away from parental discipline. By the end of the spring quarter I was in deep trouble. The Dean informed me that I would have to go to summer school and make A’s and B’s in order to remain a student in the fall.

          Then I was introduced to something called “guidance counseling.” That turned into a major blessing. Under the wise direction of a caring counselor, my life was turned around. Study became a daily routine – in the quietness of the old library on campus. I found out I could make good grades when I applied myself. That discovery motivated me to do well until I graduated.

          So I will advise Joseph to apply himself diligently from the beginning so his first year will not be wasted.

          Second, I will urge Joseph to resist the temptation to discard what he was taught in Sunday school and church. In college he will encounter some agnostics, and an occasional atheist, who will ridicule his Christian faith. He will hear more than he ever dreamed about the other major religions of the world. He will be invited to admit that Christianity is merely one religion among many, and that its claim for the divinity of Christ is obviously false.

          He will be wise to listen and take such talk with a grain of salt. Listen and learn but hold on to biblical faith. When all the smoke clears, the Bible will still be the greatest book ever written. It will still contain God’s truth. And those who deny God’s truth cannot live well in a world created by God. God’s word will remain true no matter how many academic degrees one may acquire.

          Colleges should stretch our minds and enlarge our thinking. That is good. And agnostics and atheists get more attention than they deserve. I believe God has his witnesses on every campus. We should look for those teachers who will encourage us in the faith because they themselves are faithful disciples of Christ.

          Even in seminary I had one professor who derided the Bible. His views were so bizarre that he was even tried for heresy, though not convicted. I learned from him but he was not a cherished mentor.

          Finally, I will encourage Joseph to make up his mind soon about what he wants to do with his life. God has a plan for his life and only God can tell Joseph his true identity – the person he is meant to be. The sooner he discovers that, the sooner he can apply himself toward that goal.

          When trains were young, the railroad company published a guide for travelers. It stated that before going on a journey the traveler should decide three things: 1) where he is going; 2) what train to take and when; and 3) whether he will have to change trains and where.

          William Barclay calls this the best advice you could give a young person beginning the journey of life. He went on to say, “Anyone setting out on the journey of life ought to make up his mind clearly, firmly and early where he is going. He may not get there, but he will at least be trying to get somewhere. The person who does not know where he is going will literally get nowhere fast.”

          Young people like Joseph have to decide if they want to get all they can for themselves or if they want to do all they can for others. Do they want a job for the money or for the fulfillment the job can give?  Dean Inge sums it up well: “The bored people are those who are consuming much but producing little.”

          One postscript: Joseph, don’t forget the way home! Enjoy your new wings but remember your roots are here and there are people here in your balcony cheering for you to do your best! + + + +