“Do you want this?” Mum said, holding up what felt like the seventeenth different type of spatula we’d seen so far that day. The classic pre-university IKEA trip, trolley overflowing with some very necessary, as well as some highly questionable items (mine was a cat-shaped jelly mould), that you’re lured into believing you’ll need for your launch into independent living.
Amidst the IKEA madness, I remember feeling a mixture of excitement and nerves, with a whole host of expectations, hopes and fears as I headed off to university life.
It was 2am in freshers’ week and he was asking me about the unique claims of Christianity!
And I remember praying: praying I’d make good friends, praying I’d find a church quickly, praying God would help me settle in, and praying He’d give me opportunities to share my faith with the people around me.
But even though I’d prayed all that, what actually happened still took me by surprise!
A few days into freshers’ week at around 2am I was in the kitchen with my new flat-mates, making tea and toast after a freshers’ event. And it was at that point that one of them turned and said to me, “You’re a Christian right? What do you actually believe?”
It was hugely exciting to see God at work in students’ lives – and to get to be a part of it.
I was stumped. It was 2am in freshers’ week and he was asking me about the unique claims of Christianity! Already God was answering my prayer in ways I hadn’t anticipated. That famous verse in 1 Peter 3:15 flashed through my head: “Always be prepared to give an answer…”
As the year continued, I found more and more prayers being answered. I increasingly found myself in conversations and opportunities like this; people asking me questions about what I believed and why, about the decisions I made and the life I led. It was hugely exciting to see God at work in students’ lives – and to get to be a part of it.
My three years at uni were the best opportunities I’ve ever had to share my faith. My friends were open to asking questions. They enjoyed having debates at silly o’clock in the morning. They had time to come to events that the Christian Union (CU) put on. They saw my life under a magnifying glass as we lived, worked and played alongside each other. And that presented opportunities that were completely unique; opportunities that just weren’t the same in the school staffroom I worked in a couple of years later.
But sharing our faith isn’t about knowing the answer to every single hard question.
So it’s worth being prepared to give an answer!
As I reflect on that verse from 1 Peter, I’m encouraged that the faith we have is reasonable, that it stands up to investigation and that answers are possible! If you’re feeling unsure, take some time to dig into it as you pack your bags, connect with a church and CU, and begin your uni life.
But sharing our faith isn’t about knowing the answer to every single hard question. I certainly didn’t! The verse continues like this:
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
It’s about giving my reason, our reason, for hope. And that, quite simply, is Jesus! That’s something we can do.
I can tell people why my degree result, career path or social life isn’t the most important thing.
We can tell people why our hope is in Jesus, why He’s worth following even when it’s hard, and how he’s changed our lives and attitudes. I can tell people why my degree result, career path or social life isn’t the most important thing.
So, as you head to university this autumn, let me encourage you. Do your IKEA trip. Buy your spatulas and potato mashers. But do more than that.
Pray for the people you’ll meet. And pray expectantly. I’d prayed for opportunities to share my faith – but was still surprised when they came along!
Pray as we’re instructed in 1 Thessalonians: “rejoicing always, praying without ceasing, giving thanks in all circumstances.” And watch as God opens surprising and wonderful doors for you to share the hope you have in Him this year!