To The Graduates

To The Graduates

photo by Emily Weimer

 

If asked to write a letter to my eighteen-year-old self, it would look something like this…

 

Be faithful in the small ways.  

Take out the trash so that someone else doesn’t have to.

Call your mom.

Drink lots of water.

Leave your cell phone in your pocket and make eye-contact

with the person sitting across from you.

Like Brother Lawrence washed dishes to the glory of God,

study with enthusiasm and humility

remembering that education is a privilege

so many will never know.

Take your clothes out of the dryer before they wrinkle.

Don’t ever eat lunch alone. Food should be shared.

Exercise–for the energy and endorphins–not for a number on the scale. We are more than our bodies.

Pray in the shower. Pray in the car.

Pray for people. Ask them. Then actually do it.

Finish essays before they’re due. Then drive to the nearest body of water—lake, river, or ocean—just to put your feet in the sand for a few minutes.

Heed the words of the Apostle Paul:

“Whatever you do, whether in word or deed…”

“Whether you eat or you drink…

do all to the glory of God.”

Don’t think that simple faithfulness

like babysitting someone’s kids

so they can go on a date

or arriving early to church

to make coffee

is less important.

Paul told the Thessalonians;

to “live quietly” and “work with [their] hands.”

And Solomon, wise Solomon, who saw “everything under the sun”

realized that, sometimes, the most faithful

thing we can do

in this life

is “to be joyful and to do good as long as [we] live.”

 

Do hard things.

Play your song at the open mic night.

Write that story.

Apply for that job.

Forgive that person

who wounded you so deeply

that your hand still forms a fist

every time someone mentions their name.

Don’t be afraid

of people who are different than you.

They’re the ones who will teach you the most.

Invite them over. Make them dinner,

even if all you have is Kraft Macaroni & Cheese,

and ask them about their life,

why they see the world the way they do,

then listen well.

You can be on the front-lines of every protest against injustice. You can buy the t-shirt.

But without love, remember that we’re just a bunch of clanging symbols.

Take action

that goes beyond a retweet.

Lay your life down

for the gospel

for your friends

for your enemies—and don’t be surprised when this offends.

It’s subversive. It speaks to a need

many don’t want to admit.

Admit it. Then point yourself and everyone you meet

to the cross.

Remember that love shares the gospel.

It isn’t content

to watch people

go on without Christ.

Say with David, in the Psalms:

“Our God is a God of salvation.”

You will sound crazy,

fanciful, ignorant and strange.

Say with Paul, in Galatians:

“If I were still trying to please people,

I would not be a servant of Christ.”

Believe this,

that though your words drop

to the floor and bounce back

like an awkward echo,

to some, those words

will be an “aroma of life.”

To some, your testimony

is the story they’ve been waiting to hear.

Do the very hard work

of speaking the truth of God, unedited,

without apology.

Don’t sanitize the gore

of the cross.

You’ll be tempted to.

I’m tempted to.

But Jesus’ pain went deep

because our sin runs deep.

He was tortured

until He ran out of breath

so that he could say of our sin:

“It is finished.”

So that when he rose from the dead,

every hope that seems

too good to be true

is actually true.

 

Tell this story.

Do hard things.


Grieve with hope.

I have seen too many students

leave this place, this spot, this kind of stage,

only to be hit in the chest with sudden loss

sadness, or disappointment

and respond to the pain by walking away

from God

the church

and the salvation they need

because the pain didn’t fit

into their definition of love.

 

Don’t be like them.

Don’t be surprised

as Peter says,

when the “fiery trial” comes.

It will.

And it might knock the wind out of you.

You know. You’ve been there.

There are days when our hope

clouds over like the sky

before a thunderstorm.

 

Not too long ago, my sky

grew suddenly dark

when a “yes” became a “no”

and broke my family

and my heart.

During those dark days

I learned that fearing God

is the beginning

not only of wisdom, but worship

and, ultimately, comfort.

Because a God less fearsome

wouldn’t have had the power

to handle my pain.

He is the kind of Father

who lets his children

break.

Who broke His Son.

This God is love.

The kind of love

that listens to the cries

we pray from the bathroom floor.

That patiently bears with

our erratic faith.

That does not answer all our questions

but instead, enters our pain

in the person of Christ.

He walked dusty roads.

He went hungry for days.

One of his best friends left him

and turned on him

for a bag of gold coins.

He preached until his voice was hoarse.

He healed until his body was exhausted.

 

You may not know why

you’re suffering, but you do know

that God gets it 100%

because Jesus lived it.

 

He

is the kind of love

that will bring us home

at last

and not a second before.

When your sky clouds over

sing with Charles Wesley:

“Hide me, O my Savior, hide,
Till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide;
Oh, receive my soul at last.”

 

Because after this

“momentary, light affliction” that feels

more like a house caving in,

“we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building

from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

Our every tear will be dried

by Jesus Himself.

And we will no longer find a need

to sigh

because Christ will be ours, in perfection, forever.

Sing this hymn:

“When Satan tempts me to despair

And tells me of the guilt within

Upward I look and see Him there

Who made an end to all my sin.”

Say with Peter:

“Lord, to whom else would we go?

You have the words that give eternal life.”

 

Love like God.

Love is from God.

It looks like washing someone else’s dirty feet,

listening to your roommate’s problems at 12 AM,

calling your best friend out when they’re headed in the wrong direction,

because you love them more than you want them to like you,

sharing half of your favorite sandwich,

following through with your word,

and weeping with those who weep

even when you don’t understand

their pain.

Rejoicing with those who rejoice

even when you’re in pain.

 

Love is from God

and God loves His church,

so you should, too.

The church is not the coolest place.

It’s full of people you wouldn’t choose to hang out with

if you had a choice.

Instead, it’s full of sinners, just like you.

And the Bible says, that though we’re individuals,

together we make one body.

So when going to church

feels like an awkward three-legged race with someone

much shorter or taller than you

that makes sense.

But instead of untangling yourself from that person,

walking away and proclaiming exasperatedly:

“It’s just gonna’ be me and Jesus from now on”

first, remember that you’re not being that original

(everyone tries this at some point)

and second, God tells us that we’re to work

as members of the Body

with patience and love.

 

And I’ll say this:

When you finally stop fixating on the awkwardness

of the church

you’ll see around you people who would drop everything

to pray for you,

take you out to coffee

and share their own story, for your sake.

The church is full of sinners, yes, but sinners being molded

into the shape of Christ

and they are your family. And there

is a beauty that you

will miss

if you don’t stick around, serve

and let others serve you.

 

When I wanted the church least

I needed the church most.

 

Look for those

who love like God.

 

When it comes to romantic love

look for the man or woman who sits

in the ashes with a hurting friend;

the one who takes correction with humility

because they are serious and passionate

about becoming more like Christ.

Look for the one

who loves the local church; who does not despise

other Christians when they are sick,

rebellious

or slothful

but rather patiently comes alongside them,

never ceasing to work and move

in a way that strengthens the entire Body.

 

Look for the one who is not self-conscious

when they worship,

who marvels as God’s creation,

who holds money with open hands,

their life plans with open hands,

you with open hands.

 

Look for the one

you could survive a trial with.

Liking the same music is nice

but it doesn’t hold two people together

when they lose a child,

their home,

or encounter a string of discouragements

back-to-back.

Look for someone who finds their strength

in the love of God

and in the person of Christ.

 

Be content with manna

The author of Hebrews

says that it is possible

to be content

with what you have

right now, in this moment

“because God has said, I will never ‘leave you’ or ‘forsake you.’”

The thing to remember about manna

is that it was a miracle.

It came from heaven—this perfect food.

But it could not be stored up

or it would rot.

It could not be replicated.

It was God’s recipe.

All the Israelites had to do

was trust that it would arrive

each day, as God had promised.

All they had to do was eat this

miraculous meal with thankfulness.

But as you know from studying the Old Testament,

manna quickly went from being viewed as a gift

to being viewed as a trial.

And we

are no different.

God’s provision is a miracle.

It is perfect.

It is every day.

But it is how we view it

that determines our joy.

 

I think the greatest lesson I’ve learned so far

in my 30 plus years on earth,

is that contentment makes or breaks a person.

Their future.

Their marriage.

Their career.

Their friendships.

 

And contentment

can only

be found

in Christ.

5 thoughts on “To The Graduates

  1. Hi there. We’ve never spoken before, but I wanted to let you know that I read your book the other day and your words felt like a friend to me. I also enjoyed reading this post, so thank you!

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