Two months ago, I stood on the white shores at the end of Narnia, hugged beloved friends goodbye, and returned to my world. In other words, I graduated college.
By its nature, college produces some of the most potent experiences of our lives. How many times have you heard people say (usually with a far-away expression), “Those years were some of the best of my life”?
Now that I’ve stepped into alumni status, I understand why many people linger in conversation for those fleeting moments on their college years.
Tight-knit community characterized my small, liberal-arts school. My campus had a culture unto itself, with some wacky traditions that people from “the outside world” shook their heads at in bewilderment. Most everyone shared my faith, and I lived in an environment centered on knowing God. Some of my dearest friends came out of college. Through our shared experiences and wild shenanigans, our university became our kingdom, and we reigned as kings and queens in it. We came alive there. It grew into “home.”
Something about these experiences of deep belonging eclipse this world, and transport us into a world that feels more real than this one. No wonder we feel lost when these times of “home” come to an end.
It’s like when Aslan told Edmund and Lucy at the end of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader that they couldn’t come back to Narnia. They’d outgrown it. How disheartening! Who would want to go back to our world when you’ve lived in a breathtaking world of magic, wonder, and beauty?
The problem for us, like the Pevensies, is that we outgrow college (or at least, we’re meant to outgrow it). By the time graduation came, I knew I’d gained all I could from the rich soil of my school. Now it was time to transplant and grow in a new place. That process has taken courage. “Real life” in the “real world” of adulthood can feel gray-scaled compared to my thriving college community. But I didn’t graduate without gaining a few things, some of them on which I think this life bends.
God used college to draw me closer to Him, and to prepare me to know Him better after graduation. In Narnia, Aslan tells Edmund and Lucy that in their world he has another name, and they must learn to know him by that name. They’d have to learn to know him in new ways in their world. They’d have to find their identity outside of the dear place that had shaped them eternally, and find it in knowing him.
Isn’t that the whole reason they’d been lead to Narnia? To know Aslan? It’s the same for us.
In finding a new home at college, I discovered also that our sense of home will never be fully reached here in this world. Beautiful experiences – ones where we come alive – reveal another aspect of our true nature: we were destined for a world more real than ours. If you know The Chronicles of Narnia (if not – huge spoiler coming!), you’ll remember that the world of Narnia ends, only to reveal the real Narnia afterwards. In that true Narnia, the Pevensies and all their friends spend forever together and with Aslan.
I will say that my years at college were some of the best of my life, because they prepared me to live out the best in my years to come. Now I’m more alive with the hope of the real world to come, and the joy of knowing God in new ways until I get there.
What about you? How has college prepared you to live out the best in this life?