As I write this, my oldest son Jay is being interviewed by the Alumni Schools Committee for one of the colleges where he’d like to spend the next four years of his life.
Two weeks ago, he and I road tripped to New England to visit four schools. Over the course of six days we flew almost 10,000 air miles and drove 1000 car miles. We laughed. We sat in airports. We high-fived the rare but coveted upgrade to first class. We sang in the car. We walked around campuses. We visited libraries. We met with swim coaches. We ate. We visited some cherished friends and we made some new ones. I listened to Jay dream about his life and I watched him get excited about this significant transition in his life.
Besides wishing I was 18 so I could go to college again, I was pleased to watch Jay FEEL the opportunities before him . . . willing to dream, desire, imagine, wish, want and hope.
He may not get into any of the schools he’s applied to. With 30,000 kids from all over the world applying for as few as 1200 spots in each of these freshman classes, the odds are not good. Yes, he scored off the charts on his ACT and SAT. He’s graduating with a 4.125 GPA. He’s senior class president. He’s performed the lead in several school musicals. He holds multiple school swimming records and is a reigning State Champion. The problem is that most of the 30,000 applicants to these four schools have a resume pretty similar to Jay’s.
Jay loved all four schools we visited. But there was one in particular where I saw him “light up.” He could see himself there. And knowing Jay better than just about anyone else on the planet, I think I saw it even before he did. As we walked through one of the campus quads he said, “Dad, this would be a lot easier if I already knew I’d been accepted.”
Easier how? Easier in that there would be no RISK in the wanting.
With every mile higher into the stratosphere he allows his heart to hope, he risks a proportional free fall of grief, disappointment, sadness and loss should he get a dreaded rejection letter from the admissions office in April that says, “Thanks but no thanks.”
As we walked and talked, I encouraged him to take it all in and to let his heart go. If April brings rejection, God will meet him in his sadness and the death of his dream. It will be in the midst of that comfort (God’s presence being invited by Jay’s sadness) that his heart will be healed . . . and in the healing prepared to open again to a willingness to risk the hope of another dream he’s not yet imagined.
On the other hand, if he refuses his heart and protects himself from the possibility of disappointment by living in denial and refusing the truth that his heart wants to speak, he’ll suffer a worse death . . . not just for the next two months but long after. He’ll begin to die on the inside having learned that the only way to survive this life is to play it safe, dream small dreams, and only trust what he has the illusion he can control.
I want Jay to get accepted. I feel almost as much fear as he does because I so want good for him. But I’m mostly glad that he risked applying. I’m glad he walked around that campus and dreamed about his life. I’m glad he’s been willing to say out loud how much he wants this. I’m glad he believes God will be with him (to delight in his celebration or to see his tears) when he opens that letter in April.
I was a dreamer and a risk taker like Jay. Five years ago today, I stopped dreaming . . . for a season. My heart had been crushed.
I’m not 18 and I’m not heading off to college. But I am dreaming again.
Guaranteed outcome? No.
Convinced God will be with me in it? Yes.
It’s only a heart that knows it will be comforted that is willing to risk being crushed.