Oh my gosh, you did it! Congratulations! You finished school! What now?!
Oh right, it can kind of feel like you walk off that graduation stage and fall one thousand feet, not knowing where you will land.
This season of life is best characterized by the word weird. It isn’t bad, and it isn’t always great – it’s weird.
I watched the senior college class graduate on Saturday, and I’ll be watching the Seminary students graduate this weekend – and I have just felt this deep sense of responsibility to speak over your next season of life. Look, I’ve graduated three times so I kind of know how this goes:
Ecclesiastes is where we find that well-known insight:
There is a time to live and a time to die…
Sometimes we make it seem like college is the living, so the next part must be the dying. We do students a great disservice by saying, “These will be the best years of your life!” Who thought that was a good idea? By saying that it implies that there is nowhere to go but down from here! I remember thinking in the challenging days of college, If these are the best years and they’ve been hard, what does that mean for the rest of them? For the people whose college experience was one of their most challenging seasons, this is plain discouraging. Even for the ones who loved every second of college, this doesn’t exactly make the next season of life something worth looking forward to.
So here is what I want to say to you, more than anything else. This applies to all of us, no matter what season we find ourselves in:
It is all for the living. Every season of life is for living. Yes, Ecclesiastes is true – there is a time to die. A time to die to sin, to self, to this earth. But as long as we are here, yes, as long as we are alive – this life is for living.
This next season? Yeah, it is different. It is weird. You may not live surrounded by all your friends. You’ll have a job – or maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll have three. Maybe you will feel discouraged that you aren’t using your degree or doing what you thought you’d be doing. Life doesn’t look the way you thought it would. Maybe you will struggle watching all your friends get married, or maybe you’ll get married and struggle watching all your friends living the single life together.
It can look a million different ways, and none of them are the right or wrong way.
I want to encourage you with this – in my personal experience (and I have friends who would say the same), this post-grad season has been one of (if not the most) beautiful season so far. So my hypothesis of life is that even when it gets harder, it just keeps getting more beautiful.
I have this quote on a sticky note: “Life is harder than I thought it’d be, but as beautiful as I let it be.” (From Bo Stern, Beautiful Battlefields) That is life with the Lord. It will probably be hard and sad and disappointing at times, but it is always beautiful. We get to choose to make each season better than the last. You determine the way you respond to what life throws at you. You decide the rhythms that you will walk in and the liturgies that will change you. Decide what matters and chase that. Make goals, find passions, create new things.
This is the day that the LORD has made – each day is a new chance to seek JOY and discover beauty. That is true for all of us, not just graduates.
I wrote this the semester after I finished college, and it is still true today:
This is my encouragement to all of you, especially my sweet friends about to graduate. If you know me well, you know I was an emotional wreck in my last semester of college. Because I was so concerned with where I was going, what I was going to do…rather than who I was going to become. The basic truth is, no matter where you go and what you do, God is working in and through you. As long as you are listening for His voice and following His guidance, you can’t make a wrong decision. It isn’t as if God can only go with you if you choose door three and not door one or two. Do you believe God is bigger than that?
Dear sweet graduate, whether you are finishing high school, college, or graduate school, starting a new job, getting married, having children, whatever – this transition will be weird. There are always new things to learn, new skills to master, new people to meet, new bridges to cross. Things will not be the same. You have the right to grieve this; it is a loss. Allow yourself that. But do not live in fear of the future because it is unknown. That is always scary and mysterious – but be excited. Have courage. Walk into it with open hands, trusting that the God who has brought you this far has so many more beautiful things in store.