Intentionality. This word was not one that I ever would have chosen to describe my life before freshman year. It implied a sort of candor and boldness. It implied making the first move when you could very likely be shut down, turned away, or told “no” – every high-schooler’s worst fear. It was a risk – and I wasn’t fond of those.
I reminisce now, though, on what was a very eventful freshman year of college. I filled out the last multiple choice test of the year last Monday, and now summer is no longer a distant hope – it is a reality. I loved this year though, and I learned more than I would have ever anticipated.
Although it reached its climax in my freshman year of college, intentionality began to find its significance in my life my senior year of high school. Up to that point, I only let things fall into place in my life. My friends were people that sought me out or that I happened to be in a room with 8 hours a day.
I wanted people to pour into my life. I wanted people to invite me to hang out with them. I wanted people to ask me to be on their sports teams or to sing for their events. Thinking about actually putting myself out there and pursuing opportunities and friendships was too scary. I felt like I wasn’t getting many opportunities. I was also missing out on a lot of amazing relationships.
I blame this state of mind on two things: fear and apathy.
I also thought the Lord would always bring opportunities easily before me. Never did it occur to me He could want me to be the first to spark a friendship or to pursue an opportunity.
I didn’t want to be told no. I was afraid. I didn’t realize that being told no is just part of relationships. Part of life. It happens, but it seemed to be the worst possible scenario at the time. My identity was so wrapped up in being liked, being told “yes,” that I didn’t want to risk someone turning me down. I didn’t want to risk trying out for things and using my talents because I didn’t want to be a failure.
Oh, and the apathy was real. I wanted everything to be easy and effortless. I expected people to notice me and initiate hanging out with me. I wanted opportunities to be easy. The thought of actually going out and signing up for something seemed like more work than fate should demand.
So senior year, I began to realize this mindset was not working out too well for me. I didn’t do a lot of things I wanted to do because I didn’t want to risk being unskilled for a little while or messing up. I didn’t pursue relationships because I didn’t feel like it was my job. I gradually realized, though, that I was not the only person who thought this way. I was missing out on a bunch of amazing friendships because I wanted my acquaintances to always be the ones to initiate making our relationship deeper, and they also felt the same way about me.
The same realization dawned on me with opportunities. The Lord wants us to be active. He wants us to use our passions and talents and pursue opportunities to glorify Him. Yes, he guides us to the right opportunities, but a lot of times the process involves us risking failure and being intentional.
Senior year, I became a lot closer to a few people that I’d been in school with for years, but had never made an effort towards. I started asking people to get coffee. I started inviting people to church and began being more intentional in sharing the gospel. It became one of the most valuable truths I carried into my freshman year of college.
College without intentionality looks like gazing at a lively, colorful world through a glass window. You are not engaged. You are waiting around, watching, hoping for someone to come inside and cater to your needs.
Also, sharing the Gospel is also 100% being intentional, and the Lord is always at work somewhere around you. Yes, the Lord does every ounce of the work in a person’s heart, but in order to communicate the Gospel to someone, you have to communicate. You have to build relationships. You have to ask and be active.
Just go for it and risk being turned down for other obligations or maybe even the person not being interested in your friendship. The Lord can use you regardless of any amount of fear or inadequacy.
Many an opportunity is missed when you live life passively watching. Being intentional is uncomfortable. It is hard. It takes effort. But it is worth it.
words by Savannah Cooper and photo by Kate Bartley