At this time five years ago, I had been a Christian for two weeks. I would be starting my first semester of college at UT Knoxville in two months, with aspirations of being a doctor. Unbeknownst to me, I would lose my grandfather on July 4th, and my father would be arrested on July 21st. Prior to my starting college, I would be baptized on August 5th.
You’ve just made the most important decision of your life. Being saved is a necessity. I’m sure you will come to understand that, if you don’t already. Your entire being will change I can assure you, and this is a good thing. Be sure to spend some time with grandpa. He’s been praying for you for years, and you being saved, I can imagine, is one of the happiest moments of his life. You never know when he will no longer be there for you.
Start reading and praying. You will find as you grow as a Christian that these habits will prove more important than any other as you face different challenges. I know that you are anxious to begin school. Rest assured, college will prove to be a very exciting time for you in more ways than one. Just remember the end goal. Do not lose focus, or take things for granted. You will go through different challenges, different hardships, but at the end of the day you are in control of your future. You have been blessed with that opportunity. Remember that nobody will take your exams for you, and nobody will study for you. There will be nights when you feel as if you know nothing, and others when you are filled to the brim with confidence. In either case, remember that God gives us patience to persevere and continue on. As you progress, above all else, keep your head down. God allows us opportunities to excel, and without Him, we are nothing. Remember that. Remember where you have come from, and where you are going. In your hardest times this will serve as a reminder. Failure is not an option, and you will find it in yourself to succeed, even in times when all seems hopeless. God is with you. He always has been.
Spend some time with Dad. He’s struggling with a lot right now. You will come to learn of what I am referring to in due time. I reiterate what I previously said. You need to stay focused. It will be difficult. The world will seem as if it’s falling around you, but your goals will be the same regardless. To become a physician takes nothing less, and that is what you are striving for.
Over the next years, you will find that the people you once thought would always be there to support you will begin to fade away. This reality is one I have now realized comes with life. God is faithful to send others into your life, and they will show you the love and support you need, and I can promise that you will come to cherish them as family.
At times you will feel as if you know nothing. At other times you will actually know nothing. You will struggle, and you will thrive. True failure only comes when we cease making forward progress. You will make B’s. You will suffer through Honors Calculus. You will find companionship, and you will find loneliness. You will study piles of paper higher than you’d have thought possible for a single test. You will spend four months studying for your MCAT. You will find yourself awake at 3 A.M. worried about whether you will be accepted. But, you will survive. And I can assure you, it will all be worth it. What seems an abstract thought to you now will be become very real as you inch closer, one test, one quiz, one homework assignment at a time, and when you finally come within reach of your goal, you will look back and it will seem that an eternity has passed.
There are a million things I could tell you, but I’ve found that experience is often the best teacher. Develop good habits. Start working out now. You will thank me. Don’t think that calculus quizzes will be easy. Try to limit all nighters. It’s not worth it, and you do worse with them, particularly in physics. Invest in some nice dress clothes. You will need them, and nothing is better than a nice tie or a nice suit. Take Dave and Cheryl out to dinner every now and then. They’ll appreciate, and you will come to know how important they will be to you. Take your grades seriously, and your MCAT seriously, but do not fail to understand the importance of your temperance and personality. Being a good doctor is important, but being a good person and a good Christian is paramount. You will find that this attitude will benefit you greatly in the future. Above all else, keep your eyes fixed upward. God has been extremely merciful and gracious, and in time will bless you beyond what you even thought was possible.
R. Wesley Slaven, M1
University of Tennessee Health Science Center
College of Medicine