Always with Me

​I was sitting alone in my home in Shenzhen, China, as hot tears rolled down my cheeks. I simply couldn’t believe my boyfriend would break up with me! My mind flooded with questions: “How can he be so cruel? Why is life so unfair to me?” Suddenly, even the admission letter from USC wasn’t enough to cheer me up. Oh, and did I mention: I didn’t even know what the letters “USC” stood for?

I was a complete, hot mess: rejected by my dream school — UC Berkeley; feeling extremely guilty about going abroad (to the U.S.) for college and leaving my parents with huge loans and possibly the sale of our apartment to pay for school; and most hurtful of all, I got dumped! Ever since elementary school, I had hoped to study abroad. Now, I could barely summon enough energy to care — and I was leaving China for the U.S. in two months! Although the University of Southern California was a dream school, I still felt like a failure in my eyes, and I didn’t know what to do with my life.

I wiped my tears, and started searching for something to read. Reading is the only reliable thing I knew that could take my mind off of things and soothe me whenever I needed it. No love stories, of course ... but what?!

This one book sounded interesting: Conversations with God (by Neale Donald Walsch). I wasn’t really religious, being raised in a non-religious family. I didn’t know if God really existed. Could He even hear me? What does “She” do? What does God sound like? Before I knew it, I had devoured the three volumes of the series in a week. For the first time, I actually felt like God was with me, always. The series talked about how God is always present and looking over us like a parent would a child. I started talking to God in my mind, but I wasn’t sure what else to do. And soon, I forgot about it altogether.

My First (and Best) Friend
Then, freshman year started. I flew over the Pacific and landed in the completely foreign land of Los Angeles, California, where it seemed like nobody spoke my mother tongue. I was alone, but excited. Then, I met a person I couldn’t be more thankful for: Brooke.

“Hey … Are you going to live here?” I asked as I passed by her open door in my suite.

She looked up from the floor, with a beautiful smile on her face and a folded shirt in her hand. “Yeah! Do you live in this suite as well?”

“Yeah …” I was a little unsure about how to continue a conversation in English. It felt weird, to have a full conversation in English.

“Where are you from?” Brooke carried on the conversation. Her smile soothed my uneasy heart.

“Oh … Ugh … China.”

“Really? Wow! That’s amazing!” Her big eyes looked even bigger with surprise. She made me feel like I’d accomplished something truly impressive, just by moving to another country for school. In fact, I thought I failed, because some of my other classmates went to “even better schools.”

I smiled, and our friendship began. Brooke invited me to Young Life College, which wasn’t an easy task. First of all, the USC club starts super late for me, because I always go to bed early. Secondly, I wasn’t religious and definitely did not identify as a Christian. Third, I was struggling to find my place and my new identity in college. Who am I outside of school? What do I like besides studying? For the past 18 years, my life had completely revolved around school. Now that I was in college and actually managing school quite effortlessly, what do I do next? No one was telling me exactly what to do; I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t imagine how going to Young Life or talking to God, whom I couldn’t touch or see, would help answer these questions. Freshman year passed, and I can’t remember how many times Brooke invited me to Young Life, but I never went.

Finding My Heart’s True Passion
The next year the hole in my heart became even more noticeable to me: what am I doing with my life? Do I even have a passion? I knew I was interested in psychology, but why wasn’t I feeling a passion for it? I felt like I had so much time, but nothing to do, and I didn’t know what was missing.

One night, I wandered into Brooke’s room around my bedtime, and asked her, “Brooke, how … how did you find your passion? How do you know your life’s purpose?” She seemed to be the right person to ask, because she was so passionate about what she was doing — art.

“Oh … I think … I think God gives me my life purpose.” She answered slowly, then looked at me, “Does that make sense?” I shook my head no. She looked down, seemed to be thinking hard. I couldn’t remember how she explained it, but I remembered listening to it with all my heart. The conversation kept going until after midnight. Brooke finally said, “I think Ben Chambers, our Young Life College director can give you a better answer! Do you think it’d be OK if I give him your number and you can talk to him?” I nodded without hesitation, even though I had no idea who this Ben guy was. But I’d agree to anything, anything that could answer this question tormenting me for so long: What is my life purpose?

The next day, Ben called me. I couldn’t remember the whole conversation, but I remember feeling so relieved to hear his voice, even though I didn’t know him. I remember him saying, “To find your life purpose, you need to find God first, because He’s the one who created you and He has every plan for you. You just need to find God first, and He will guide you and reveal to you your purpose and everything else you need.” At the end of the conversation, my face was covered in tears — happy tears, because for the first time in college, I felt like someone heard me. The following Monday, I decided to take a chance, risk some sleep and go to Young Life club.

It was the best decision ever. It felt like going back home. Now I’m hooked!

Today, I wouldn’t say I know exactly what my life’s purpose is, but I know to trust in God. To trust He has a plan for me, to trust He hears me, to trust He loves me very much and to trust His love never gives up on me. And I’m learning more about my life’s purpose, as I learn even more about God.

I’ve also learned how to see God in the people around me: Brooke, Ben and everyone I’ve met along the way. I also discovered the best way to learn is to do what Jesus did: serve others. So, I applied to Young Life camp and served at Oakbridge last summer. It was a leap of faith to accept the offer to be on summer staff, because as an international student, I’d have no place to stay once my camp assignment was over!

All of a sudden, God led Ben to offer up his home so I could spend the summer with his family! While I was at Oakbridge, I found out I was accepted to a Master’s program I felt passionate about. I found the program shortly after I started going to Young Life and actually loosened up a bit on trying so hard to find my passion! My life just seemed to suddenly take a turn toward light and purpose. Sure, there are still times when I feel lost, confused and upset, but now I know God is always with me, and showing up in the people around me.

Today, I feel so grateful for all the “failures” I thought I had. Had I not gone through an overwhelmingly stressful high school career; had my parents been rich and offered me everything I wanted; had my high school boyfriend not broken up with me; had I not been rejected by my dream school; had I not felt lost, I wouldn’t have opened the book series that initially introduced me to God. I wouldn’t have learned to strive for what I want. I wouldn’t have attended USC, and met Brooke or Ben.

Finally, I wouldn’t have gone to Young Life and probably wouldn’t have chosen to follow Jesus. Without God, I would have never felt satisfied in my pursuit of a purpose, because there’s always going to be a “next thing” for me to chase after. He has always been there, charting the path of my life, and nudging me toward the right people and the right places. I am so blessed and so thankful!

Young Life College offers students a fun, accepting community to be a part of while exploring or deepening their faith.

College students can also be great Young Life leaders for middle and high school kids. Most areas are eager to train and include college students as valuable members of their Young Life teams.

For more information, visit: www.younglife.org/younglifecollege​.