How Three Words from God Changed My Mind
By Elisabeth Brooks
Hear Him Louder Essay Series: Elisabeth's Story
I sat in the Ohio Union auditorium in a barely post-covid world, attending college orientation with my third child. Because colleges have found that participation increases when they separate the teens from their parents, my son was sent one direction and I sat crammed between unknown parents. I could no longer see my son and didn’t know another soul in the large space. This college orientation was engaging and fast pasted, which should have kept me enthralled; however, my mind was full of questions and uncertainty.
Just days earlier, what our son had been discussing at length came closer to fruition. He’d been floating the idea of living in a Young Life house on campus rather than living in a dorm, but as many teen ideas go, I figured the fascination would lose steam, and he would ultimately choose a dorm as the path of least resistance. We visited the Young Life house he had been invited to join, my husband and I touring the house with the senior chosen to be his “big brother.” Although I’ve lived on Ohio State’s campus, I had apparently forgotten the state of such houses.
We were greeted by a torn screen door. Every square inch of wall space sported a couch in some state of disrepair. Each item, likely discarded by parents or another campus house, gave the house the look of an overstuffed, dilapidated mountain lodge.
In place of wallpaper, the front room was covered with Doordash receipts taped to the walls. The decor was not the disappointing part, but more so, the apparent lack of cleaning, ever. It was the stairs, with inches of dust on each step, and the vacuum standing proudly at the bottom that did me in. The crusty kitchen, the bathrooms, one per floor (which I dared not step foot in) all made me grimace. Did I mention eighteen boys lived there?
As I sat in orientation, I was torn. I was happy that my son wanted to live in a house with other godly young men. A house declared “dry.” A house dedicated to growth. But as a mama, I also struggled to think of him living in a dirty college house!
When we finished our tour, my husband asked me what I thought. I told him with a certain amount of ferocity, “Our son can’t live there.” That memory floods my emotions during orientation when they began talking about student life and what to expect of your child’s first year at college. They talked about all the clubs available on campus and how students are eager to find their identity or perhaps try a new one. They talked about how the first year can be hard and lonely, and finding your people doesn’t always happen.
In that moment, God started talking to me: What really matters?
When God speaks, each word brims with revelation. One word from God carries more meaning than a million words uttered by human voices. Those three words in my heart opened my thinking to the importance, no, the NECESSITY, of a godly environment in an ungodly university setting.
In those moments, the importance of a clean house fell away, replaced by the importance of camaraderie, strength in numbers, and finding your people. I realized that having my son be encouraged to follow Jesus far outweighed whether the shower had been cleaned in the past few weeks or even months. I was focusing on things that had not an iota of eternal value, but the state of my son’s soul and spirit meant everything!
For many students, the first year of college determines their path going into adulthood, and the lifestyle a student chooses of his own accord can absolutely change the course of his life. My son was telling us he was choosing his environment, and therefore his identity, but I had been stuck in concern about temporary matters.
With several hundreds of parents surrounding me, I sobbed. I have no idea what else was said in orientation. When we got home later that day, my husband asked about orientation. I replied, “I don’t know what they said at orientation, but I do know one thing: He is supposed to live in the Young Life house and I’m at peace with it.”
I tear up again as I write these words. Only God can insert his voice in the middle of a meeting and change a heart and mind already made up. Only God can point our hearts to the way when we are uncertain. When God speaks, not only do his words have power, but they are precise, like a surgeon’s scalpel, getting us to the heart of the matter.
God circumvented the chaos and clutter in my mind and pointed my heart to truth, and in that moment, I experienced his overwhelming peace. I’m so thankful we don’t have to navigate our decisions, big and small, on our own, but we have God’s presence with us always who leads us to the truth.
I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in the book of John: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth (John 16:13)” and “I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6, both verses in NLT).” His ways and his truth guided me to his peace found on his path for my son. How grateful I am that He loves me enough to speak truth to me!
The Hear Him Louder Essay Series is a guest essay series where God's daughters share their stories of hearing God’s whispers in their every day. It’s meant to serve as an encouragement for the times when God feels far and seems quiet. May this series be an invitation for us to listen for His voice together.
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Interested in contributing to the Hear Him Louder Essay Series? The call for submissions opens twice a year. To submit an essay outside of those windows, contact me.
Elisabeth Brooks is a mom of four who is celebrating her 25th wedding anniversary this year with her husband, John. She is passionate about the tremendous gift of motherhood and wants to use her voice to encourage other moms to embrace their unique role.
As a mother for 26 years and counting, she feels like she's been through it all, and each story has brought another lesson learned and new wisdom gained, even through tears.
Elisabeth writes in her spare time, which isn't much, but she wants to offer encouragement and “I've been there” to all the moms going through the hard stuff. She enjoys traveling with her family and is currently learning to speak Italian. You can find more from Elisabeth on Instagram.