Let’s be real, y’all are champs.
You started your senior year in the throes of a global pandemic. You pushed through in a year ravaged by disease, political animosity, racial tensions, unemployment, depression, anxiety and the crippling effects of isolation. And you're finishing just as things are getting back to normal and the wounds of the past year and a half are beginning to be understood.
You’ve demonstrated great resilience and as a result, these are the messages you’re hearing louder than ever:
Live your best life. Follow your heart. Pursue your dreams. Because who knows how much time you have left?
But if this last year has taught us anything, hasn’t it taught us that life is not always what we expect? In fact, it rarely is.
Your heart constantly experiences great sadness and joy. It’s a wavering thing to follow.
Your dreams change; or more than likely, you’re not sure what they are or what your purpose is.
The world is now open to you, but it’s also the first time in life that a path isn't laid out in front of you for you to follow. If you're anything like me, that's crazy scary. It's still scary for me and I graduated college 4 years ago.
And as the brevity of life and brokenness of our world have been put in front of you every day, no doubt you've been left with more questions than answers:
How do I live my best life? What is the inclination of my heart? What kinds of dreams are worth pursuing?
These are big questions that require big answers so I’m going to leave you with the words of a Big God. They are true, absolutely trustworthy, formed by the One who formed you, sacred, and unchanging throughout centuries that have seen even worse than we’ve seen in the last year:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3.5-6).
This is one of the first verses I memorized as a kid but it didn't mean anything until I started getting to know the God I was called to trust.
One of my favorite children's books is You Are Special. It's about these little wooden people called Wemicks, fashioned and built by a craftsman named Eli. The entire premise of the book is that Lucy, the only girl in town who knew who she was, was the one Wemick in town who went and sat with her maker, Eli, every day.
My first prayer for all of you is that you would know the Lord and put His Word in front of you every day. Maybe for the first time; maybe for the first time in a long time; maybe like you have most of your life. Hold yourself up in the mirror of His Words because who He says He is will show you who you are and who you were made to be.
The implications of this verse get even harder. We live in a world and culture where we’re told to believe in ourselves, follow our hearts, pursue our own paths.
Here’s what God says:
Your life is not your own (1 Cor 6.19-20).
Deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow Me (Matthew 16.24).
If you follow Jesus, your mission is set (Matthew 28.19-20).
Real quick, stop reading and go look up these verses for yourself. These words are unlike "your own understanding" or anything we hear in this world, but they’re the words of our Maker. They're worth more than all the textbooks you've read or Spark Noted over the past decade or so. Hang on to them as if your life depends on it.
My second prayer is this: That you would trust in the Lord and lean not on your own understanding. Don't cling to your own life. Cling to Jesus. Get to know Him. Love Him. Tell others about Him. Only there will you find great purpose and lasting joy. He will make your paths straight.
A few weeks ago, I was talking with a friend who did something rather unusual with his kids when they were growing up. He read them bedtime stories every night, but these were not your typical bedtime stories. They were stories of the persecuted church. Talk about a recipe for nightmares.
I asked him why he would do that, and he said without hesitation: I wanted them to know from an early age that there was something worth dying for and that that something was Jesus.
My third and final prayer is this: That you would know that the same thing that's worth dying for is the only One worth living for. And He loves you so much that He died so you could live. His is the path that leads to life and life eternal. Don’t live for this world. If we've seen anything this past year, it’s that this world is temporary. Live for Christ’s eternal kingdom. That’s what endures.
Congratulations, class of 2021. May graduating in this historic year define your generation in the best possible way.