Congratulations to our graduates! The word graduate has an etymology that comes from the Latin gradus meaning degree or step. You can see the idea of degree or step in graduate meaning successfully completing an academic course of study and graduate meaning mark out degrees or steps for measurement as in the Pyrex measuring cup in our kitchen. To graduate is to take a significant step in life.
Most students can’t wait for graduation to come. Eager anticipation awaits this next step, which to the student may feel like it was a long time in coming. To parents it may feel like time has moved past them too quickly. They have just turned around twice. My mother tells the story of when she and my Dad dropped me off at college. She said, “You couldn’t get rid of us fast enough,” and they drove away with my mother in tears. And I’ve now been on the other end driving away from a college and watching my wife in tears. Graduation is not only a transition for the student but for the parents as well.
The next step for high school graduates is usually college, trade school, the military, or the work-a-day world. This next step has its challenges. Your parents have provided you with external discipline. If parents are doing their job correctly, you are supposed to be internalize this discipline. They are supposed to be training to let go. You may not have them to wake you up in the morning or remind you to get ready for church. My prayer is that you are ready to stand on your own.
The next step may bring challenges to your faith. The reality is that faith always faces challenges. My encouragement to you is simple: there are good answers to these challenges if you will seek them. The process will make your faith stronger.
When I was in college, John Lennon’s song Imagine was released: “Imagine there’s no heaven / It’s easy if you try / No hell below us / Above us only sky / Imagine all the people / Living for today …” It was an anthem for a secular viewpoint. Opposition to faith is not new. Many people believe that modernization and technology will inevitably bring about a decline in religion and maybe its extinction. Today, many are proclaiming that the secular outlook has won the “culture war.”
Rodney Stark in his book, The Triumph of Faith, notes that the opposite is true if we look worldwide: “the popular notion of an increasingly secularizing world is not merely wrong but actually the opposite of what has been taking place.” Faith isn’t losing. The Christian worldview provides intellectually satisfying answers if you will seek them. As you take this significant step, guard your faith, because it will guard your life in this world and the world to come.