geezeronthequad: Dear Graduates…
Ah…spring on campus. Time for Pomp and Circumstance (In spite of circumstances, many of us are graduating!). Time for grad hat selfies and moving that tassel. Time to throw a wildebeest high in the air. Time for the graduating class to unveil the memorial asparagus bed honoring their classmates who are not graduating with the class and whose G.P.A.’s lie buried on campus. I remember my own. When they called my name, I snatched the diploma like the anchor man of a mile relay team taking the baton. And I was down I-80 and killing a stack of blueberry pancakes at IHOP before anyone realized what a terrible mistake had been made.
To this day that diploma lies hidden where the alumni association will never find it. And, of course, we had a speaker who I don’t remember; most commencement speakers are like that. Some schools get the cool ones like Conan O’Brien or Stephen Colbert. My son heard Gordon Parks (very cool). No one ever asks me. I’ve prayed at university commencements. But speaking? Well…there was the Biff Bugsauce Reformed Institute of Culinary Epistemology. They teach how to make lifesaving devices from outdated breakfast cereal. (You could be alive today because of old Count Chocula.) I declined and I’m not sorry about that. However…if I were asked, here’s what I would say.
Dear graduates and followers of Jesus Christ, as you leave this campus, you face the question “What’s next?”. This really will be one of the big questions for the rest of your life. And the answer across the years will largely be “I don’t know.” But because of Jesus Christ’s work in you up till now, we can know a few things worth packing with your toothbrush as you move through the years ahead.
Never attach ultimate happiness or meaning to anything less than knowing Jesus Christ. These things aren’t goals; they’re byproducts. The harder we pursue them, they will leave us eating our own dust. If we put anything, no matter how desirable, respectable or innocent it may seem, in place of loving Christ, it becomes an idol as seductive and evil as anything carved out of wood, gold or salami.
Some things will always be fuzzy about God. So it’s okay to doubt, question and scratch your head. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts. Nor are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8,9) If this is true, there will be much that we just won’t get even in a lifetime of Bible study. The bottom line is this. Can I trust the Jesus of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John who lives in me through the Holy Spirit in the face of all I don’t feel or understand?
Just because we don’t see anything happening in or through our lives doesn’t mean that God has gone out for a pizza. Whether in or through us, “…it is God at work in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Phil 2:13) When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai, his face shone with the glory of God. Everybody knew it but him. It will be that way with us a lot of the time. It’s God’s way. His glory gets sticky if we see too much of it. We hoard it to ourselves and swell up like toads. Not pretty and the smell isn’t great either.
The Holy Spirit’s middle initial is “C”. Any and everything He does speaks of “change” – sometimes small, sometimes huge. Don’t fear change. It always gets around to touching things we care about and these times make us lean harder on God. “C” also stands for “clean”. He wants us to radiate the holy beauty of Jesus. He sees what He can make us and is willing to put the steel wool scouring to our spirits so it can happen.
A small elephant falling from the sky will kill us as surely as a large one. There’s no such thing as small sins or small disobedience. All the people who came out of Egypt with Moses, except for two, died because of unbelief expressed through grumbling. Grace simply is no excuse to continue rolling in our own garbage when we already know God’s mind about it. A lot of Christian struggle is nothing more than subliminal rebellion against light we don’t like. The road back gets pretty rough because repentance always is harder than obedience in the first place.
If we’ve mined the initial scraps of a calling, go after it seriously. Out in the world you will enter, you will have less time to yourself than you do now. The pressures of distraction and busyness will increase. The first wisps of finding our call always have some scent of joy about them. Do not let this get choked out. Make sure our time and money flow toward these even if we don’t know where it will lead. Feed the fires that God has lit on the altars of your heart.
Do we plan to keep eating for the next forty or fifty years? Well, not continuously. “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” (I Thess 3:10). Sometimes our “ministry” may not be our primary “food and shelter providing” task. That is no excuse for not doing it well with no regard for the work’s significance in culture and the world or influence for God in its sphere. Christians bring the “shalom” of god into their offices and factories. Passions of calling may be pursued on the side (but not given up!). Paul made tents to support himself so as not to burden the church. He bid on jobs and promised a finished product by a certain deadline. He haggled in the marketplace over skins, fabric and cord. He submitted to hard manual labor that may have left him with crippling arthritis. And on the side, he preached the Gospel, planted and strengthen new churches, opened Europe to Christianity and wrote a good chunk of the New Testament.
Don’t shut yourself up inside the Christian ghetto. Get your faith dirty in the lives of those who are wounded and scarred from their separation from God. Do the low thing. Find ways to spill out who Jesus is in the least of these. Don’t let the love for comfort and convenience numb the voice of the Holy Spirit. The work mentioned above will put you neck-deep in these people. And getting one’s faith dirty with the children many of you will have is one of the best ways to raise kids who kick the evil one’s butt instead of running off to L’Abri (I love them.) in Switzerland to find out if all the stuff their church taught them is really true.
Fall in with the hypocrites, losers and deadbeats. In other words, find a church. You should feel right at home. Not just because you need one but because they need you. I asked a college ministry staffer why she had chosen this particular group to serve. She said that every person who had any bang for the buck spiritually that she had ever seen in the church had come through this group. Don’t look to copy your campus ministry. Find a place where all ages, economic classes and races mix together. Someplace where you can be part of each other and where what Jesus put in you can sizzle in ways that matter. This may not be First Church of Wal-Mart where Christians often become nothing more than consumers running in for their weekly bag of Jesus Chips.
I leave you with this. Theresa of Avila went to the privy (portapotty) with a prayer-book and a cinnamon roll. Satan appeared to her (This privy is getting crowded!) to reprimand her over her blasphemous conduct toward God. She replied simply, ” The roll is for me. The prayers are for God. And the rest is for you.” (Don’t laugh! This is my life verse.). Knowing Jesus Christ through the indwelling Holy Spirit is the greatest thing humans can know this side of time and space. Savor and enjoy all the goodness He sends our way. Breathe your love back to Him in Word inspired prayer. When He says “Go”, put your front bumper on His brake lights and boldly push that pedal down. And leave the rest to the evil one.
“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” – John 20:21.
If you think this might encourage a college student or someone who loves them, then share, subscribe, twitter and all that social media stuff. If you get geezeronthequad.com, then you might want to check out Geezer 1, the Facebook clubhouse that’s a mix of students, student ministry leaders, professors, musicians, artists, writers, composers, broadcasters, cultural thinkers and entrepreneurs as well as a few campus rats who think that Jesus Christ thinks the university is a special place. They’re mind and spirit stretchers – and fun. You coming on board will only make us better. Check it out and request to join through the Facebook page or send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org. If the Facebook dog eats your homework (as he sometimes does) we will ask you to resubmit your request.
Please return your seat to the upright position and give your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you exit to the rear. See next post at geezeronthequad.com