When I was 17, God called me to a secular college. As far as I knew, he hadn’t "called" me too often before then. I found—and still find—mapping out God’s will very complex. You pray, seek wise counsel, and sometimes just do things, trusting that God will reward those who sincerely seek him (Hebrews 11:6). Growing up as a Christian, as I had, can be like living in an echo chamber of God’s whispers. You can convince yourself he’s a spy passing you missives through every verse of the day or sermon shared on social media. Coincidence or calling? That’s the ultimate question.
But this was different. It was April of my junior year of high school. I sat on the amphitheater steps at my little youth group’s first-ever retreat, twiddling my pen while our speaker loaded his slides. Last month, I’d toured three Midwestern Christian colleges with my two best friends. I’d been thinking of branching out from my safe and tight-knit homeschooled circles, where the only non-Christian I regularly interacted with was my dad. It was time, maybe, to go to a secular school.
But those Christian colleges. They were warm and familiar. I liked visiting them.
The speaker’s slides flashed onscreen. He was preaching on Matthew 14, the story of Jesus calling Peter to walk on water. It was familiar to a Sunday school veteran like me—how the trembling disciples thought he was a ghost, how Peter called out, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water” (verse 28).1