I'm a university student...

Nathan Chud, January 10th, 2011

When I first composed this piece, I was simply journaling about the tensions surrounding university life.  Soon I started imagining what other people go through during these years as they trying to figure out who God is, who they are, and how everything in-between fits into the equation.  I just kept scribbling the stuff that was coming to mind, and this groan/ache/confession of sorts came out.

This is not a theological statement, but sometimes art gives us windows into places clean-cut catechisms don’t go (though I especially enjoy a good catechism too).  Tension like this can paralyze us with depression or engage us with creative force… the choice is up to us.  You’ll also see portions of “I’m a Uni” (for lack of a more flashy title) on the album cover for Moratorium (soon to be available for download on 24-7prayer.com and until then can be purchased through the 24-7 US website), which my childhood friend & designer, Casey DenBleyker (visit www.redcarstudio.com) brilliantly pieced together.



I am a university student who follows Jesus.

I’ve been formally trained to think critically.  My view of the world is scarred with cynicism and skeptical interpretation.  Rarely is it acceptable that I feel anything.  If I do, I am encouraged to rationalize it away.

I continually face critical thinkers (like myself) who question the Christian subculture I come from.  I try to imagine a counter-cultural movement like I read about in Acts but I’m stuck in the tread of a divide between the sacred and the secular of this world.

On a regular basis I encounter situations where the name of Christ is being defamed by Christians who have forgotten the centrality of His love.  Where sins are ordered in a hierarchy.  Where people must pray through a checklist before being welcomed into the family.  Where people themselves are sidelined for the sake of the sins that precede them.

I know that the world will change only as I change myself, but everyone else seems focused on themselves. I’m torn between changing individuals and changing institutions.  History class laughs at the meta-narrative that defines my existence.  Science tells me that mystery is my enemy and faith is its poison.  My learning is split into departments.  So goes my religion.

I’m a university student who follows Jesus.

I have wept over abortion and I have grieved the breakdown of the family unit.  I have also wept and grieved over Christianity’s fear-filled reaction to both.

In fact, I often feel boxed in by the stigma attached to words like “church” and “Christian.” I tend not to speak up for the possibility of being misinterpreted.

I have awkward conversations with strangers who seem to be in need, but sometimes it feels like I do so more out of desire to feel better about myself than out of genuine care.

My prayers collide somewhere between “help me pass this test / save my suicidal classmate / please have mercy on the AIDS epidemic.”  I’m never sure what order they should be prayed in.

I try tirelessly to see that my schooling doesn’t interfere with my education.  I have skipped a test to be with Jesus and I have skipped time with Jesus to study for a test.  I wonder afterward if I’ve failed some sort of test with God.

I have known a lot of hope deferred and a few longings fulfilled.  I watch my peers poke holes in any hope without offering any hope in return.  Seems like cheap self-defense, but I find myself doing the same.

I’m constantly dividing between the voices in my head.  Discerning what is conviction, what is accusation, and what is simply empty tradition in my exhausted conscience.  I feel compassion in the depths of my soul, but I have learned to quiet it in order to keep my head above water.

Sometimes I sense that God is leading me to obey Him in an act that seems crazy to me.  With all the voices clamoring for my attention it’s hard to tell who’s talking, so I’ve gotten good at just talking it away.

I’m a university student who follows Jesus.

I’m on a technology overload.  Inundated with information that is inapplicable to the vast majority of my life.  I check my Facebook profile 22 times a day with the hopes of a red button notifying me of my importance to someone.  Most times there isn’t a response to my status update and my status diminishes a few notches in response.

I’ve had trouble making new friends because I’m busy keeping up with old acquaintances through a computer monitor.

I like the Word of God but I love the summary form Wikipedia gives me of its contents.  I repeatedly have to remind myself that the Bible isn’t another textbook to resell at semester’s end at a tenth of my purchase price.

My life has a continual soundtrack provided by wires that connect to my ears and straight-arm the annoyance of other peoples’ existence… “other peoples’ existence”… sooo annoying.

Silence both scares and bores me tremendously, making it seriously difficult to be still and know much of anything.  The natural world has all but disappeared from my daily activities.  My feet are far more familiar with concrete than grass.  My hands know well the texture of my keyboard and the smoothness of my cell phone, but there is no dirt beneath my tooth-trimmed fingernails.

I speak 17 different dialects of the English language: homegrown simplicity, calculated indie-rock, charismatic Christian, academic hyperbole, post-modern pessimist, etc…

I second-guess what I’m majoring in every second day and I can’t fathom holding down one job for more than one year.

I eat food like my body is a temple of convenience.  Making coffee takes too much time out of my incredibly important day so I stand in line for 5 minutes to buy a $5 cup.

I’m a university student who follows Jesus.

I’m somewhere in between child and adult. I’ve lost the innocence of my youth but I’ve yet to achieve the wisdom of my age.  The tension feels awkward and emphasizes my temporary existence.

My school loans are more than my parents paid for the house I grew up in.  I may not have the cash, but swiping the card doesn’t really hurt anyone, and I’ve got it down to an art.  I buy new clothes that look old so I can maintain the appearance of “used and uncaring.”

I have often laughed and nodded at common knowledge I think I probably should know by now but don’t.

The world still appears wide open… sometimes even intimidating.  But more often I anticipate its narrowing and the possibility that I would remain little more than potential.

I’m a university student who follows Jesus.

Returning always to questions of who God is and who I am, usually in the wrong order.  I have friends but I often feel lonely.  I am habitually watching others watch me.  Am I essential to anyone?

I try not to look in the mirror too long when I’m alone, mostly so I can convince myself that I’m not self-obsessive.

I do the things I hate then try not to hate myself for doing them.  I’m trying to figure out who I am while trying to die to myself.

People have thanked me for being authentic when I have openly confessed my weaknesses.  Sometime I just want them to challenge my pride instead.

Everything feels urgent and rushed, and I’m trying to learn how to rest in the midst of the chaos.  To be defined less by the number of things I accomplish in a day and more by the grounding reality that I am unfailingly loved.  Not easy.

I’m trying to make friends with people who don’t know Jesus.  Remember, that’s why I have a beer, insert a “swear word” from time to time, and reference U2 in conversation.

I remember something of the religious foundations of my college, but question why today religion is at most tolerated on the periphery of my curriculum.  What foundation is all this academia built upon?

I’m a university student who follows Jesus.

I want to love God with my entire mind.  To stand empowered in my intellect without being run over by intellectualism, losing my heart in its stead.

I welcome the challenge of my faith.  I think a healthy argument can be more respectful than offensive.  Seeing people who walk with a limp having wrestled with God makes them a bit more trustworthy to me.  But I dread the possibility of a life with a divided heart.  I crave resolve and I rarely have it.

I’m haunted by the question of tolerance v acceptance.  Absolute v relevant truth.

Perhaps what I fear most is having a form of godliness that has no actual power.

Some days I have glimpses of the changing cultural norm, and it disturbs me deeply.  What kind of world will my kids grow up in?  The thought suddenly cuts off as I realize I missed the last 4 minutes of notes in class.  I’m still trying to grow up in my own world.

I recall a young leader named Joshua who conquered enemy “-ites” to the tune of strength and courage.  His “-ites” are the “-isms” of my modern day.  Worlds of thought and heralded ideas that promote the self and eliminate any life outside of “me.”

Be strong, daughter.  Be courageous, son.  No longer will the stories of our fathers suffice.

I am longing for Kingdom come.  Laboring for it to break in now.  Looking for the places it is already established.  Wondering if they all collide in each moment of my every day life.

I am a university student who follows Jesus.

Nathan Chud proudly hails from the Matanuska Valley in the last great American frontier of Alaska. It was there he met his childhood sweetheart, Marisa, who has been his wife for the last 9 years now (though most people think they look closer to 15 than 30 years old). They currently call Boston home, enjoying their days with some great friends and fascinating strangers. Nathan is a songwriter, musician and worshipper,  his new album is out now and you can follow his thoughts on his blog

This feature has received 7 comments so far...
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  • sofía
    27th Feb

    thanks so much for sharing! this expresses so well what i feel so often!

  • Kate Brown
    17th Jan

    I can’t see where “I’ve been formally trained to think critically. My view of the world is scarred with cynicism and skeptical interpretation.” fits with believing in a god of any kind. WAKE UP and enjoy this amazing world we live in without the need for some deity!! There are great things all around us. I hope you find your way.

  • Jonathan Swarbrick
    17th Jan

    Thanks Nathan – that was good.

  • Susan Diamond
    16th Jan

    You’ve touched me with your piece. May I share with our multi-faith prayer community for women on prayables.com?

  • Chana
    15th Jan

    It’s been many years since I was a university student, but your thoughts still resonate with me very deeply. It seems growth cannot happen with out the shedding of old notions which are like constricting old wineskins or reptilian skin that must be discarded in order to expand. The very struggle and pain is proof that we are alive spiritually because Christ in us has to grow and press out the old ways and that is an unending process, no matter your age or spiritual maturity.

    Kudos to you for a thought-provoking, honest piece.

  • Christopher
    12th Jan

    I can honestly say that I have never actually commented on a blog, or any internet site, in my entire life. Now at the age of 22, having read your thoughts, I feel it is time to comment. I can relate to nearly every thing you had to say in this brilliant jotting of thoughts…genuine thoughts. I battled for years to understand my existence, the world, and my place in it. Rationality progressively replaced emotion and innocence was slowly lost. I wanted to do “right,” but the definition of right became increasingly blurred. Before I knew it, I had lost my relationship with God, become entirely self-dependent (and thus prideful/hopeless/cynical), and made some decisions I am not too proud of. Fortunately, in this past year I have discovered what a personal relationship with God really means…wow was it a fight, and many a times did I stumble. However, it was those stumbles met by the reality of Jesus’ sacrifice that has placed me in a position of humility and allowed me to slowly begin digging myself out of the dark hole I dug for myself over the years. Ask, seek, knock. Those aren’t empty words. You just have to genuinely be willing to submit, and then fight the good fight (because it will be a fight). You have to pick yourself up when you stumble, assume responsibility, seek forgiveness, and fight to grow. Only through Him can one be made whole! I appreciate your honesty. Fight the good fight…finish the race…keep the faith.

  • Brittany
    10th Jan

    thank you for sharing this with me. it made me feel not so alone. Im glad to know I am not the only one who has felt this way at this point in my life. God moment for sure.

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