We continue our series on letters to Freshmen who attend legalistic campuses. The last couple of weeks we heard from a recent graduate of Pensacola Christian College and wonderful advice about being open to truth at all cost. Today Janeen shares the most valuable truth to hold onto your faith in spiritually dysfunctional groups. 

Dear Janeen,

Three decades have passed since I walked in your rain-soaked heels, but I haven’t forgotten. The hopes, the joys, the disappointments, and the fears are still fresh.

I know this is going to come as a shock, but trust me: God is NOT who your church, Bill Gothard, or Pensacola Christian College (PCC) says he is. Not only does he love you more than you can imagine, he even LIKES you just as you are! Recently in prayer, he told me how he feels about you. Listen to what he said.

Janeen — I just love the sound of your name. It’s written on my heart. It means so much to me because YOU do. I have thought about you since before time began. Every moment of your life I have been there with you. I love you. I. LOVE. YOU. No one stirs my heart more than you do. You, Janeen.

He speaks to my heart, and what he says heals me from the inside out.

Let that sink in deep. See, this is who God really is. He speaks to my heart, and what he says heals me from the inside out.

Yes, we need healing. Right now you can’t let yourself see it, but years of physical, emotional, verbal, and spiritual abuse have left deep wounds. Even now you’re bleeding.

I remember. You’re student 57897 — just a number. It feels like no one sees you, knows you, or cares. You long to be loved and understood so you gravitate to anyone who seems to show real interest in you.

This is normal. You are so normal. But you find yourself in surroundings that are anything but normal.

Take away the fear and they lose their power and the prestige and money that comes with it.

PCC is a prison of fear. Just look at the fences surrounding the campus. The barbed wire faces inward! Fear is the establishment’s means of control. They can’t let people escape into real freedom – not physically, not practically, and especially not spiritually. Take away the fear and they lose their power and the prestige and money that comes with it.

You WILL escape. The key that opens the gate is LOVE — not the love you give, but the love you receive from God who is ALL LOVING. Let his love soak into you like water into a sponge. You don’t have to do anything. He will do it. He already is.

Most of the people around you right now don’t know God this way. They don’t see his love, believe they are loved, just as they are, flaws and all… SIN and all.

Some of them, like you, will come to understand the truth and will become your life-long friends. But I have to warn you: the people at PCC you feel you must impress, the ones who seem to hold so much power, will never see who you really are.

Guess what: it doesn’t matter. Seriously, their opinion is COMPLETELY irrelevant. In fact, there is coming a day you will be so very proud you never fit in there.

Part of me wants to tell you change colleges. PCC isn’t what you think and hope it is. Your time there will produce much more pain than growth. You will have many regrets.

But you aren’t ready for such a dramatic change or the adversity that would come with it. That’s okay. Your future holds more adventure and joy than you can imagine!

Demerits, rules, appearances — none of that really matters.

In the meantime, don’t sweat the small stuff. Demerits, rules, appearances — none of that really matters. When you go for job interviews, no one is going to ask how many demerits you got. This isn’t about rules. Just enjoy life, and if you get into a little trouble once in awhile, it’s okay. It really is!

Give yourself permission to have your own opinions, to think your own thoughts, and to make your own decisions. Just be that Janeen God loves so much, because his is the ONLY opinion that really matters.


Your older self



Dear Reader,

I graduated from Pensacola Christian College in 1988 with a BS in Elementary Education.

It’s been said PCC produces two kinds of people — rebels and robots. When I matriculated I was already an Independent Fundamental Baptist robot born and bred. I aimed to get fewer than 10 demerits per semester because PCC would then wipe the slate clean. Perfection was not just my goal; it was my self-imposed standard.

Over time I realized I could never measure up. Failure after failure wore me down. By my Junior year, I was in full rebel mode. Like most PCC rebels, I managed to keep up appearances and avoid expulsion.

Since then, God has gently, patiently wooed me with his unfailing love. Had I known this love at PCC, my life would have been very different.

Janeen Puckett