I don’t think I’ve ever told most of you the story of how I ended up attending Western Carolina University.

I became a Duke fan when I was eight years old. (Everyone in my family is a Duke and/or Carolina fan, so it was a 50/50 shot.) I loved their men’s basketball team, and I knew how good of a school they were. I decided that’s where I wanted to go to college not too long after that.

The older I got, the more into it I got. I was obsessed with more Duke players than you probably care to read about. I used to visit the campus once a year with my older sister as a member of the Junior Blue Devil Club, which allowed me to watch other Duke sports teams, meet athletes, wander around the campus, visit the chapel, and interact with members of the Duke community. I simply fell in love with the place.

I knew I would have to do unbelievably well in school to get there, so that’s what I tried to do. I did well enough in middle school to set myself up to do well in high school, and I did. I won’t go into a lot of detail, but I will say that by the end of high school, I had been in five clubs, two honor societies, and had a poem published.

I applied to Duke, Lee University, Davidson, Western Carolina, and Evangel University. (That’s the order in which I wanted to attend them.)

I was surprised when Duke was wooing me. I was clearly wooing them, working hard, getting letters of recommendation, and even taking classes they wanted me to take that I didn’t necessarily want to take, but I guess I never thought they’d actually show interest in me. But they did. They sent me something weekly it seemed, one item of which was an invitation to tour the campus, prospective North and South Carolina students only. It made me feel good, like I wasn’t an idiot for thinking I could actually get in.

The entire time, I was praying for God’s will and guidance. I told Him if He didn’t want me to go to Duke that I shouldn’t be accepted because we both knew I would follow my will instead of His if it played out any other way.

Ironically, Duke was the first school I wanted and the last one I heard from. I got in to Lee, Western, and Evangel. I didn’t get in at Davidson, but it honestly didn’t bother me at all. Duke gave me my letter online at the very end of March. It was the day after the Duke/Carolina game. I was beyond nervous. Everything I’d wanted for the past ten years came down to a letter that I couldn’t even hold in my hands as I read it for the first time.

It was honestly the nicest rejection I’ve ever received.

The record for the number of first-year applicants had been broken, and everyone on the admissions staff had said how difficult the decisions were. If a lot of the people who didn’t get in had applied a year or two before, they would’ve gotten in. They physically did not have room for all the ones they wanted. They wished me well wherever I ended up, and they were sure I’d be successful in whatever endeavors I pursued.

To this day, I’ve never been so heartbroken over something that didn’t involve an actual human being other than myself. I cried on and off for two days. I didn’t want to do anything or go anywhere; I just wanted to curl up and be sad.

My parents wouldn’t let me do that. I still had to do homework and go to school (where I broke down three times the next day). And it was just as well because I had a month to figure out where I was going. (The decision deadline for Western was April 30th.)

Although Lee was second and Western was fourth, I prayed and thought about it a lot. It never came to me in a dream. No burning bush, no small whisper in my ear, no angel waking me in the night. God let me choose.

It seemed crazy to me, almost unbiblical. If God had a specific plan for me, how could I choose for myself? But it was the vibe I was getting, and it’s something that a dear family friend and man of God who’d been praying for me as well told me. It became clear that God was going to bless me either way.

Western was less expensive and closer to home, so with God not telling me otherwise, it’s where I went.

I don’t regret a second of it. No, WCU isn’t Duke (a point I gladly would’ve made five years ago), but it has many things Duke never will, and it provided opportunities Duke wouldn’t have. I feel oddly safe in saying that my life wouldn’t be as lovely now had I gone to Duke instead of Western.

God had greater plans for me than I had for myself.

There’s a lot to be said for obedience and sacrifice. I think many of us don’t like to hear those two words. They’re harsh words of God from the Old Testament, not loving words from Jesus in the New Testament.

Please know that I’m not trying to sing my own praises here (Trust me, you don’t want to hear me sing anything, but especially that), but I believe that part of the reason why my college experience was so great is because of the sacrifices I made, both in general and to pursue God’s will, and the obedience I showed God and was willing to show Him.

The words “obedience” and “sacrifice” have connotations and denotations that aren’t exactly fun. They give an image of bowing down to something or someone and bowing out of pursuing or maintaining something you want or love. Those images are strong, but accurate. Bowing down and bowing out make us feel or seem weak, and that’s no fun to us either.

But God told Paul, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NLT).

Also, look at who you’re obeying and sacrificing for.

If it’s the one living, true God, (to me) you automatically get a pass. It’s awesome, and it makes sense.

If anyone’s worth sacrificing for, it’s God. Being so loving, He’ll always bless you back. It might be in the form of a second chance or a long hug from that one person you really need it from or some other way. Regardless, it’ll be given in whatever form you most need it in.

If you were to obey anyone, it should be God. Obedience to God means accessing the best life you can have. God took time to design you and the best life for you. The only way to live that great life is to seek it by seeking and obeying God.

We may not like to say “obedience” and “sacrifice,” but whether or not we say it or think a lot about it or worry about what doing so will make others think of us, both must be done for God to make us and our lives greater. They’ll cultivate your relationship with God to the point where you’ll do them without thinking too much about them.

By Carrie Prevette

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