A Significant Step

May 20, 2016

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.

Spread Your Wings and Fly!

May 23, 2014

A bird built a nest near our house. We often disturbed the mother bird, and she would squawk and fly away. But we knew that this would be fleeting. In a matter of weeks, the baby birds would spread their wings and fly away. Children take longer to leave the nest, yet eighteen years fly by us so quickly. There are times when years seem like weeks.

I don’t know whether birds have fears, hopes, pride, regrets as baby birds take wing, but humans do. Time marches by relentlessly. The pressures of work and paying the bills take their toll on every parent, even when we value family. Regrets of things you didn’t do occur even when there is a storehouse of good memories, because you know things will never be the way they were when they spread their wings and fly.

Parents are like the scaffolding around a building during construction. The scaffolding is the external brace during the instability of the construction phase. But it’s not intended as a permanent part of the plans.

When the external brace is removed, what will happen? Your parents won’t necessarily be around to get you up for class, work or church. You will decide your level of involvement in the church. You will decide more than ever before who your friends will be and who you will date. Faith is not inherited (Matthew 3:7-10). You will not spiritually survive on your parents’ faith. This will be a critical time for you. You must move beyond “what you believe” to “why you believe.” Your decisions will decide your direction. We must “commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32, NIV).

Graduation is also an exciting time in your life—a time of transition. The end of Ecclesiastes has words for the young.

Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment. (Ecclesiastes 11:9b, NIV)

Certainly, Ecclesiastes is not encouraging an unrestrained following of the heart. The admonition occurs within the context of following God’s morality because of His judgment. But this piece of wisdom recognizes it is when we are young that all of life is before you. Within the context of following God, the encouragement is to follow your heart—to follow your dreams. Congratulations on your graduation. Spread your wings and fly!

The Milestone of Graduation

May 18, 2012

Graduation is an important milestone in one’s life. For a high school graduate, it means you have made it from kindergarten through twelfth grade. A lot of time has passed in that journey toward adulthood. That time passed slowly for you, but for your parents, the time has flown by quickly. They are extremely proud of you, but they are also feeling a bit nostalgic as they consider the changes that are ahead.

Graduation is a new beginning. As someone has quipped, they call them commencement ceremonies for a reason: you are about to commence to the next stage of your life. The new beginning may lead to a job, a technical school, college, or the military. Graduation represents the passing of something accomplished, so that something new may begin.

A world of opportunities exist even in a tough economic climate. Choose your job path carefully. As it is frequently said, if you find something that you really like to do, you will never work a day in your life. By never work, the saying means that it won’t seem like drudgery. You will look forward to your work. Time will pass quickly. I’ll add one caution. I suspect that in every job there is some drudgery. It is difficult to get away from the curse of Genesis 3 completely. But people who enjoy what they do are blessed.

This is the time when you are making those important decisions about what you will do in life. Ecclesiastes advises:

Rejoice, young man, while you are young, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Follow the impulses of your heart and the desires of your eyes, but know that God will judge your motives and actions. Ecclesiastes 11:9, NET

As long as it is within the will of God, youth is the time to follow your dreams. Youth is the time of great potential. Enjoy it, but choose wisely.

Graduation is a time of spiritual testing. Make certain that God and His will are involved in the decisions you make. Leaving home will also make it necessary for your faith to become your own and not just that of your parents. You may find yourself having to wake up and go to church on a Sunday morning on your own. Mom or Dad won’t be there to get you up. Stepping out into a wider world will also mean facing greater temptations and challenges to your faith. Keeping spiritual matters a priority will help you through the temptations and challenges. If you keep God first, it can lead to the strengthening and maturing of your faith.

Congratulations on the milestone of graduation!