“In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love…” and, as I learned this week, to college.
Weeks after most application deadlines have passed, letters of recommendations mailed and acceptances (or rejections) received, two young men came to me in the space of a week to get a reference from me. Both seniors in high school, each recently was recruited by small schools, in part, for their athletic prowess. Both were small Christian schools that required a reference from a pastor to complete the application. Each student stopped by my office to have me complete that form, saying, “You're the only pastor kind of guy I know.”
Student A graduated from our church's preschool fifteen years ago. His mother also taught at our school for many years. I believe His family was half-Jewish and half-Christian, though I don't think they participated in either tradition very often. Since I had to answer a question about his commitment to Jesus Christ, he explained to me that his parents exposed him to both traditions so he could make up his own mind. I asked him if he had. He said he was open to it, which is what I typed as my answer to that question.
Student B was in confirmation class five years ago. At the time, his family was regular in worship and I got to know him very well. He was smart, asked great questions and seemed to grasp well the basics of the Christian faith. After confirmation, though, I only saw him three more times. Once, when his younger sister was confirmed. The second time was a weekday morning when he asked me to pray for a friend of his in the Marines being deployed to Iraq. Number three was to ask for this recommendation. At one time his commitment seemed strong. Presently I knew little about his faith, so I typed that for my answer.
So now I am wondering how many small Christian colleges get recommendations like mine? How important is my input in the admission process? How important is my input for their athletic programs? Was I just a hoop to jump through? (I'm pretty sure I know the answer to that question.) And why would you ask a virtual stranger to recommend you to a college?
I have written many letters of recommendation over the years, mostly for young people I knew very well and could write pages about. For each I've strived to be unique, creative, entertaining and put into words how impressed I was with them. But this was a new experience. I tried to put the best construction on everything. I tried to express everything in the kindest and most honest way. But I had to be honest.
It took courage to come in and ask me for a recommendation. I'll give them that much. But it takes a lot more than courage to make it through college.