I often get asked why I chose to attend Liberty. I was that obnoxious overachiever everyone had in their high school: I went to every college fair within 30 miles, I had every brochure, catalog, or pamphlet I could get my hands on, and I had statistics memorized for half the schools on my side of the country. Or maybe both sides. I was ready to scour the country to find the perfect school for me, or rather, the best possible school I could get into. College seemed like another glittering award to add to my collection: perfect GPA, a plethora of extracurricular activities, hundreds of volunteer hours, and…an Ivy League stamp of approval.
…but that’s not exactly how it worked out.
My junior year of high school I made a decision I hadn’t anticipated I’d be making: to go to an evangelical Christian school. My junior year was the first year I made an intentional commitment to follow Christ, and along with that decision came another one: I decided that if I was going to stake my life on these beliefs, I wanted to know as much about them as I possibly could. I wanted to get the opportunity to take Bible and theology classes that would enrich me spiritually, not just mentally.
And Liberty still wasn’t on my radar.
You’d think with it being the largest Christian university in the world and all, it would be my first thought. Wrong. Still as organized and calculating as ever, I shifted my statistics memorization and brochure collection to a different set of colleges. But something happened that I hadn’t entered into my calculations.
Don’t get me wrong, like many of my fellow students, I now occasionally dread the onslaught of outsiders to our campus. But when I was a wide-eyed high school senior, I came looking for a college, and I found a home.
Nothing quite prepares you for a God-sized intervention. Unfortunately, he usually forgoes the brochure stage. When I came to CFAW, I was expecting to meet with the right advisors, visit the right classes, and let the admissions office know: I had done my homework. Instead, what I remember most about CFAW was the feeling of the Holy Spirit everywhere I went on campus.
When I visited the Helms School of Government, I didn’t just get handed a list of majors, a cup of coffee, and a firm good-bye-thanks-for-coming handshake. I met professors who were genuinely interested in knowing what I was interested in. I met administrators who wanted to hear how I was doing, how I was really doing, and when they said they’d pray for me, I knew that they meant it.
CFAW is not just an opportunity to spend a few nights on a cramped dorm room floor, go to a (totally awesome) concert, and sit in on some (really fantastic) classes that interest you. It’s all of those things, but it’s also a lot more. It’s an opportunity to have God speak to you through some amazing people, feel His presence on a campus filled with people who love Him, and sometimes, get hit right over the head with His amazing will for your life.
It’s barely a quarter of the way into the semester and it already feels like my workload is building up! Taking on a full load of classes, working, and preparing for the debate season to start is a lot to fit into 24 hours. But there’s one element of that hectic schedule that I wouldn’t dream of giving up- debate. As I blog this year, I hope to share fun adventures with my hall, inspiring Convo speakers and the discovery of all the events Liberty has to offer. But one activity is going to take up a significant amount of my life this year - debating for the Liberty Debate Team.
I joined the Liberty Debate Team last year, as a freshman. I’m fiercely competitive, love a good argument, and don’t mind spending hours researching on a bumpy bus. It was perfect. As the semester gets into full swing, completing both my school and debate work can feel like a tricky balancing act, but I can’t imagine doing it any other way.
Debate has challenged me, stretched me, and inspired me in such a unique and wonderful way. I love that Liberty has given me the opportunity to do something I love on a team that is bound by not only our love for this competition, but our love for our Lord Jesus and each other.
I couldn’t have dreamed when I walked into the Debate Lab in DeMoss on my first day at Liberty, that within just one year these people and this activity would become the greatest part of my experience at Liberty. It’s not just the late nights spent researching in the Debate Lab, or the exhilaration of a big tournament. It’s the blessing that this team and these people have been to me. No matter what is happening in my life, I know that there is a place I can go and people I can talk to who love me.
Speaking of those wonderful people, there is one person you are probably going to hear a lot about this year, Meagan.
This girl has inspired and encouraged me an incredible amount over the past year. She started out teaching me about debate, and has become one of my closest friends, who I can laugh uncontrollably with and can knock some sense into me when stress makes me irrational.
We’re all very different. I can say without a doubt that I wouldn’t be friends with some of these people if it wasn’t for the team. Somewhere in the midst of sleepless nights of research and stressful hours of competing, I found that these people had become even more than my closest friends, they had become my family. The Debate Team is not for everyone- but whatever it is you love to do, and whatever weird group of people you want to do it with, there is a place at Liberty that can become your home. You just have to find it.
I love living on campus - it’s such a blessing to be on a hall full of people to love on you and encourage you throughout the semester. And one of the best parts of living on campus at Liberty is doing fun activities with your “brother”/ “sister” hall- the guys and girls residence halls paired together for the year. This last weekend, the leadership on my hall and my brother hall took a hike to Panther Falls, a swimming hole about an hour from campus. The “hike” turned out to be a lot more like a short walk- but no one was complaining, because spending as much time as possible in the water was our goal! After our first two weeks of classes, we were all looking to let off a little steam- and what a better way than to wildly jump off some rocks into absolutely frigid water!
Better than the hike and the falls was getting an opportunity for our halls to spend some time together and take a break from another week of studying. Living on campus gives you such a great opportunity to have a built-in support system of friends and roommates that will be there for you the whole year. Whether it’s an impossible Chemistry question or a search for another volleyball player, living on a big hall is such an incredible blessing- we get to work, play, and live together, and sometimes take a wild leap of faith.
As the sentimental sap I occasionally turn into, I sometimes find myself pausing in the middle of Convocation and taking a wide gaze at the thousands of students surrounding me. There is something truly beautiful about watching God’s children come together to worship Him.
Don’t get me wrong, when my alarm goes off at 9 a.m. (or 9:15, 9:25…9:45…) on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I don’t exactly leap for joy at the prospect of getting up earlier than absolutely necessary. As someone who built her schedule around getting in as much sleep in the morning as possible, having Convo at 10 a.m. three times a week could be seen as a rude interruption. (And trust me, 10 a.m. feels so much earlier than it sounds…)
And yet, like many other Liberty students, I have come to deeply appreciate that I go to a university where my spiritual growth is so highly valued. The idea that a proper education should include an individual’s spiritual development has become so passé in our culture, and too many of us are apathetic about the state of our relationship with God. Convocation has become so much more than a mandatory wake-up for me. It’s an integral part of my spiritual education at Liberty that I wouldn’t trade for a few extra hours of sleep.
Sometimes I even wish Convo was every day, because it starts my day off with two reminders:
1. I am a child of God, and everything I say and do should reflect the worth I have in Him and the commission He has given me.
2. My spiritual growth is more important than anything else I do today.
I love both of those reminders, and they are so important!
Often, I go to Convo with a million things on my mind. I have tests to take, homework to do, papers to write. I have a checklist constantly going in my head, and sometimes it is overwhelming. I desperately need to be reminded of where my priorities should be. It is almost impossible to go to Convo and not get that much-needed reminder.
When you are worshipping the Almighty God with thousands of people all in the midst of struggles, often similar to yours, that all-important paper or critical exam suddenly feels trivial. You are in the presence of a God bigger than your final exam.
After a full week of classes, sometimes you need some fun to balance out your studying! And after our first week of classes, Liberty offers students a great way to have some fun- the Block Party. Every year, Student Activities hosts the kick off event for the year, involving carnival rides, food, student clubs, and a concert to end the night. This year, the Block Party featured bands 7eventh Time Down and RED. A few friends and I headed down just as the festivities were heating up- and made it our mission to find all the giveaways offered at the student club and department booths.
First up was the Tilley Student Center booth. For 20 push-ups, the girls could get a free towel and water bottle- and the ability to brag to all the guys that failed to reach their requisite 50 push-ups.
Lindsey and Abby showing off their skills.
Easily the most entertaining part of the night, however, was riding a few of the carnival rides.
Before the ride started!
Before it started, we were all smiles- but there were definitely a few screams once the ride got into full swing.
The Block Party was a great way to start off the school year- with new friends, some shenanigans, and beautiful fireworks lighting up Liberty’s campus.
Starting off the school year right with some fun!