Friday, May 6, 2011

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.


  1. Great post. And congratulations to your daughter. This is such an exciting time for her and I wish her lots of blessings in her future career.

    I can think specifically of two storms that I weathered that brought about great blessings. One of the storms was when my husband was run over by a car a month after were married. If that hadn't of happened, we wouldn't have had our son.

    Most recently was when the ER I worked in for 11 years was closed down. I loved that job and was devastated. But little did I know, the wonderful job I have now was waiting just around the corner.

    The odd thing about these situations is that in the first (and worst) situation, I was not putting my trust in God. In the second situation, I did. But even in the time when I wasn't looking to God, He still provided me with my greatest blessing - my son. :-)

  2. I never thought about how commencement is "start" and not an end. Interesting! Congratulations to your family on this big occasion.

    I loved this reminder today Barb. The truth is in black and white terms God has never failed to give me beauty for ashes and all the discomforts have come from my own pulling AWAY. thanks for the reminder.

    I've been in job limbo for about 16 months now but I'm still getting a paycheck and I will just trust day by day and not look forward to worries but to possibilities.

  3. Suzie--

    I can empathize. In the first year of our marriage, my husband was diagnosed with colon cancer. He's cancer free now, but it really shaped the tone of our marriage, and only in a good way. Sometimes those difficulties are blessings in disguise.

  4. No graduation yet, but my oldest daughter just started driving, which felt like a graduation, certainly for her, and also for me a step away from taxi-cab parenting. LOL.

    I don't mind sharing that my marriage has been in a rough transition for almost a year now. It's been three steps forward and two back the whole way. That makes it very important for me to "remember" as you said that there has been some forward progress even though there seems to be so much backwards movement.

  5. Deb--

    God has often surprised me by supplying the best right after I've mourned the loss of something good. Beauty for ashes--I didn't think of that, but so true!

    Still praying for your job situation. But what a blessing to know He has something wonderful planned!

  6. Suzie said, my husband was run over by a car a month after were married. If that hadn't of happened, we wouldn't have had our son.
    Gotta admit, this fired my imagination. LOL

    I'm encouraged by your last para Deb. :)

    Congrats, Barb. That's quite an accomplishment. One of the things we discovered upon moving to the prairies was how big a deal it was to graduate from high school. Back in the city, it was the norm. But out here so many young people drop out of school because they feel disadvantaged living on a farm and cutoff from everything. You can't get a job unless you drive 10 or more miles and you can't drive if you don't have a car with gas. So they quit and join the work force. Which meant when Jessie graduated, it was a very big deal here. Not sure what we'll do in a couple years when she graduates with her degree.

    Good post, Barb. Thanks.

  7. Dina--

    I remember when my daughter started driving. I'll be praying--hard. Just kidding.

    How wonderful to have a heavenly Father who not only guides us in the best way, but also provides comfort when that way proves difficult. I'll be praying that those steps forward are many, and the steps backward diminish.


  8. Anita--

    LOL. Maybe Suzie will provide a connection--or maybe not!

    Sounds like you have a lot to be proud about in Jessie. What a blessing!

  9. Wonderful post, Barb!
    We seem to do all our major transitions at once, which is good, and bad.
    We married in '90, had a baby in '91, found the Lord after a health scare that put daughter in hospital, and started going to church in '92 (and had another baby.)
    Had baby #4 in '97, moved away from our hometown in '98 to plant a church AND bought our first home.
    In '09 our oldest graduated and got married, #2 started driving. In '10 hubby and I turned 40 and had our 20th anniversary, #2 graduated and #3 started driving and #4 turned 13. And now, in '11, we are grandparents. Add some serious perimenopausal symptoms and a hubby considering leaving the pastorate to become an evangelist... Oh dear.
    Thanks for the reminder about setting up those remembrances. They remind me of the hooks rock climbers leave behind. I just need to grab hold of them! God won't let us fall.

  10. Anita said:
    Suzie said, my husband was run over by a car a month after were married. If that hadn't of happened, we wouldn't have had our son.
    Gotta admit, this fired my imagination. LOL

    LOL! I guess that did sound kind of strange. You guys never know what you're going to get when I have insomnia. I really should not post comments in the wee hours.

    It's a long story, but the magazine version (as my hubby always says) is that he was scheduled to go in the military, where, because of training and schools he would have been gone for almost two years. During those two years, I developed an illness that left me having a hysterectomy at age 24. Praise God that my son was conceived and born safely in the midst of it. The surgery that kept me from having more children was on my second wedding anniversary.

  11. PS: I am so encouraged by all of you and your faith experiences, this morning. I can identify with every single one except becoming a grandma.

    Deb's job situation, Barb's husband's illness, Dina's teenage driver and marriage ups and downs, Anita's children eventually moving away, Niki's hubby considering a new path.

    Everyone's faith and God's wonderful blessings bring tears to my eyes.

  12. Niki--

    Transitions do seem to come at once. (Weeks after our daughter graduates, hubby and I will be celebrating our 25th anniversary.)

    But what a testimony to how God has worked in your life in the past!

  13. Suzie--

    What a story of God's perfect plan! He saw ahead and gave you the child at the last possible moment.

    You know what they'd accuse us of if we put some of these real-life experiences into fiction. Deux machina. But thank God He is in the machinery!

  14. Wonderful post, Barb. And congratulations to your daughter!

    Suzie, your story is amazing. God is so good.

    Praying for all of us in our times of transition.


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