For many students, beginning college signals a move into a less sheltered existence, where you become increasingly aware of the “dark side” of this world. This was not my personal experience. The first thing I learned in college was that life was not as hopeless, terrible and overwhelming as I feared.

My life as a high school student was chaotic, stressful and punctuated by inappropriate experiences courtesy of my adoptive step-mother, “C”. Life with C was like riding a mega roller-coaster built on a mountain- not your usual ups and downs, but HUGE ups and downs where you thought you might DIE when your little caboose came squealing down the tracks into the valley, only to be thrust up again higher than you really wanted to go, always conscious that you had to come back down. The ride had begun in earnest when my parents divorced shortly before my sweet-sixteenth birthday. C propelled the ride, and I naively contributed time, energy, money, and support to keep her going from one crisis to the next.

When I got to college, my new friends and professors didn’t care about C. For the first time in recent history, she was irrelevant. Her drama which invaded my life in a multitude of ways as a high school student, no longer mattered. It was all about me. After living a life in which everything that happened to me was filtered through the lens of how it would affect C, it was refreshing to my soul to be able to just BE without her shadow cast over me.

Yes, she was still in my life, though not for long. I felt buoyant, floating in a new dimension. I had prayed that my life would be calm, but had begun to doubt it would ever happen. But it had. I began to move in a world where learning was valued not just as an ends to a mean (college degree = rich college husband in C’s mind), but as a good in life. Music, science, literature, friendship, laughter, good books, and hard work refreshed me, renewed me and filled me with hope. The stark contrast of the chaos of my pre-college life and orderliness, purpose and joy of my life in college enabled me to make some hard decisions about my family relationships. My heart softened toward my father and our relationship was restored. I was reunited with my brother R (who had been praying for me during the four years we had been estranged following our father and C’s divorce).

The little lessons and joys of college quickly taught me a big lesson, not to allow my soul to be taken captive by fear and dread. I had confirmation that God is indeed faithful and He hears my prayers and His desire is for relationships to be restored, and love and faith to prevail over fear and dread.