It's that time again, when graduation invitations line themselves up along the counter. The smiles on the senior pictures look familiar but my brain replaces the images with the pudgy cheeked five-year-olds of my memory. On the last day of kindergarten, twelve years ago, I assured these children that they would always be my students even if they grew up; and they did.
I recently saw one of my daughter's high school band directors at a local ice cream establishment. He had a momentary look of surprise on his face when I told him Anne would be student teaching this fall. He was a first year teacher when Anne was his drum major so I suspect my announcement might have been his first experience with realizing his former students grow up. He'll get used to it. If I can watch former students grow up, marry, and bring me their babies to hold, he can get used to seeing his teenage students grow to adulthood. Life marches on.
It is still strange to me, as I think of these young people beginning their college and work careers, that I am, once again, a backpack-lugging-note-taking-paper-writing-ID-bearing college student. It still fascinates to me what wonderful twists God weaves into our lives. This past year has been stressful, terrifying, edifying, satisfying, enlightening, and most of all, good. God is good. God is good, all the time. What have I learned, or relearned this past year that I could pass on to those fresh young faces on the graduation invitations? I suspect my message would sound much like my words to them in kindergarten:
- God loves us, no matter what. God loves us when things are going well. He loves us when we get the job we applied for, when a professor puts a kind comment on a well-done paper and when we find any joy or success on our life. It is easy to remember that God loves us when things are going "our" way. However, it is vital that we remember that God loves us even when we fail, or when we are disappointed by the circumstances of our life.
- God expects us to love each other, no matter what. This means we not only love the people who love us, but, with God's help we also love the people who hate us, who are different from us, who are being hurt by us, or who are in circumstances beyond our control or reach. God expects us to do this and His love is the power by which this is accomplished.
- God is in control. This seems easy to accept, but, in my experience is immensely difficult to live. 99% of my stress comes from my mistaken belief that I can fix, handle, or otherwise survive the pickle I am in. God is in charge, He has the plan, He knows where I am going, and He will see to it that I get there. If He lets us in on the future He has planned that is just icing on the cake. He asks us to walk, with Him, in faith.
- God talks to us and nourishes our faith through His word and sacraments. Seek His counsel in scripture. Read His word, everyday. Pray and seek His forgiveness, everyday. Thank Him for His love and care, everyday. Listen, be still and know He is God.
- The fellowship of believers is a gift from God. Seek and build relationships with other sinners who walk in God's light. Be a blessing to them as they are to you.
I pray for these young people, now at their graduation, as I prayed over them when they were in my kindergarten class. I pray that God's will for them will unfold, day-by-day. And even as I pray for God to bless their lives with joy, I know that the sin we bring into the world will guarantee that joy will be made even more intense as it is help up against the pain and sadness that will be an inevitable part of their lives.
God be with us, keep us in Your care. Bless us with peace and strength. Abba, Father. Amen.
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8