Graduation or Commencement?
by Barbara Early
Gown, mortar, tassels—check.
Graduation season is upon us. My daughter will soon don cap and gown and march to Pomp and Circumstance. She’s ecstatic to be finished. Done are the dull lectures. No more dorm food. And she’s retired her number two pencil for good. So we often think of graduation as an ending, the end of college life.
Ironically, the term “commencement” suggests a beginning. My daughter is looking forward to her share of beginnings—job interviews, future pay checks, and shopping for scrubs (did I mention she’s a nursing student?). Oh, and the beginning of paying back those student loans!
Whether or not they are marked by ceremony, we face many such periods of transition—a graduation from some aspect of our lives, and the commencement of another. Even joyful occasions such as graduations, weddings, the birth of a child can be stressful. If the change is unwelcomed—the loss of a job, the end of a relationship, or the effects of illness—we can find ourselves thrust into uncertainty, loss, pain, and doubt.
When weather changes suddenly—especially where two air masses of greatly different temperatures meet, the result is often a storm. The sky turns dark, thunderclouds rise and loom in the horizon. The wind begins to howl. The sky flashes. Thunder rolls. Likewise, when change comes on us, especially suddenly, our emotions are often whipped into a frenzy of fear and stress. If you’ll pardon me for mixing a few metaphors, here are some things God has been teaching me to help me weather life’s storms.
Stay anchored. There’s an old gospel song that asks, “Will your anchor hold in the storms of life?” The refrain answers the question:
We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love.
While we can’t prevent the storms of life, we can have assurance that we will be kept in the Savior’s love. Looking at the storm clouds will bring fear and doubt. Focusing on the Savior brings the assurance that comes, even in the midst of the most violent of storms, with the admonition “Peace, be still.”
Let go. At first this seems like contrary advice. How can you stay anchored while letting go?
Many times in my life, I’ve found myself trying to hold onto things that were not the anchor. I’ve tried to hold onto possessions, jobs, habits, friendships, and even areas of Christian service when God was leading me in a different direction. With my feet anchored in God, my hands clung to something else. When that “something else” and God are moving in opposite directions, the pressure on me can only increase. While God doesn’t force my will, letting go of those things that oppose His not only glorifies Him, but keeps me from being ripped apart in the process.
Remember. In the history of the nation of Israel, especially at the time of some transition, God often sent a message of remembrance to his people. Remember what God has done. Consider how He has helped you in the past. Think of how many times he has already given you the victory. Remember what great power He has at His fingertips, and how ready He is to aid his people.
I can consider how He helped His children in the past: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Heb 11:33-34
Or I can make it personal, and remember how he plucked me out of the muck of my own sin, washed me with his blood, and made me an heir forever of a host of heavenly promises. And after my last breath, I will ever be with Him!
Forget. Whether what lies behind us is great success, or resounding failure (or anything in between), concentrating on the past can immobilize us and keep us from stepping into what God has for us in the present. We need to learn from our past without being ruled by it, and celebrate our memories, without being enslaved by them. Paul, a man whose ministry was marked, sometimes by preaching to kings and other times sitting in prison, said:
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Phil 3:13-14
Questions of the day.
Anybody in your family graduating this year? And while I don’t want you to feel you necessarily have to share any difficult transitions you’re going through—although as always, we’d love to pray for you—is there a remembrance of a time God has helped you in the past that can encourage others now?
Barbara Early grew up buried in the snowy suburbs of Buffalo, NY, where she developed a love for all things sedentary: reading, writing, classic movies, and facebook scrabble. She holds a degree in Electrical Engineering, but her penchant for the creative caused her to run away screaming from the pocket-protector set. She taught secondary English and science for several years in a Christian school before home schooling her daughter successfully through high school. Barbara cooks up cozy mysteries with a healthy dose of comedy, and was a double finalist in the 2010 ACFW Genesis competition. When not reading or writing, she enjoys cooking, crafts, home-improvement projects, and spending time with her husband and daughter.