Dear Class of 2017,
My church had their baccalaureate service this past Lord’s Day, and as I watched it all unfold, so many memories came flooding back to me. Memories of schooldays, lessons learned, and knowledge gleaned. Memories of how I’ve occupied my time since my own graduation of three years ago.
I remember how excited I was to be graduating; to be putting into practice all that I had been taught as a young person. I was on the brink of adulthood, life was exciting, and I was on the threshold to so many new experiences of life.
I heard a young girl express that they were excited to graduate, were hoping to graduate early in a few years. I had to laugh, because I remember being excited about being “done” with school — and three years later, I wonder why I felt like that. The same feeling of wanting to be “all grown up” when I was three, and thinking I would never have to deal with whatever was bothering me at the time — naps, vegetables, mayonnaise on my sandwiches — and now, at twenty, wishing I could turn time back to the good ol’ days of being three and curling up on my mommy or daddy’s lap so they can make it all better. I don’t take naps, I actually — oh horror! — like veggies, and I can make my own sandwiches. But there are other things, bigger things, that I deal with.
There are so many, many things I’ve learned in the intervening years between my graduation and now — and there are so many things the Lord has been faithfully dealing with in my life. There are things that I wish I had been told, and there are things better off learned yourself.
And so, Graduate, I wanted to write you, and share a few of the most important things I have learned, and am learning still.
I guess the most important thing I have learned is that man may plan his ways, but God directs His footsteps. I had big plans for after graduation. You know what? I ended up sick with mononucleosis about two weeks after I graduated. I missed a friends bridal shower; I almost missed her wedding. I almost missed my pastor’s wedding. I really don’t remember much about that year except being tired and sick and exhausted and sleeping, with my heart racing on and on until I was breathless and was light headed just sitting up. I think I pretty much stayed in bed and slept from June ’till August. And I don’t remember even having much energy until September-ish. After that, in 2015, various things happened — weddings, bathroom re-models, babies born. In 2016, my grandmother had back surgery, my grandfather had a quadruple bypass surgery, and in January of this year, my grandmother had an ankle fusion that ended up infected. I can guarantee you, I did NOT plan any of this. But, providentially it was all in the Lord’s hands. He knew the lessons I needed to learn, and He taught them, faithfully. Don’t hold onto your plans — let them go. It is noble and good and right to have goals, but surrender them if the Lord makes it clear that He needs you for a different work.
The second most important thing I have realized is that you never, ever, ever stop learning. Especially if you have been home-educated. Even if you don’t go off to college. I had heard this, as I am sure you have, many times. And I believed it. But to experience it….ah. It’s just different. As a graduate I have so much more time to study. All the things that piqued my interest when I was “tasting” them in formal lessons have been jumping points, off of which I delve into studies unfathomable. Homeopathy, music, natural childbirth, doula certification, nursing, photography, theology….basically whatever I didn’t have time for before. Because I am not responsible for the daily things I was in lessons. I don’t have to do math, grammar, copy work, creative writing, poetry, art, or the myriad of other things. Or maybe I should rephrase that. I do it in a different way. Instead of creative writing, I write on this blog. Or I journal. Or I fill up a notebook with short stories. I help the younger children with math, reading, spelling, whatever they need. I use math in determining the best purchase and the best deal in the store: two small cans, or one large? How much waste versus how much money saved? I’m thinkin’ you’ll be surprised at the lessons carried over from your childhood.
Thirdly, learn how to just live. Make the most of this time you’ve been given on this earth — don’t be afraid to embrace the challenges and tackle them head on. Whether big or little, go for it after much prayer and supplication. If your challenge is planting a garden to feed your family, don’t let work and sweat and hot humid days deter you. Push ahead for the prize of fresh veggies! If your challenge is closing an abortion clinic, go after it with all your heart. Don’t let naysayers discourage you; don’t let the hurdles involved turn you away. If you are headed to college, study hard and make the most of your time, knowing you have been given the unique opportunity to stand strong in the faith, to live out life in such a manner that those around you might very well ridicule you, scoff at you, and laugh at you. In a way, you are on your own — it is up to nobody else but yourself to keep you accountable to God. And the students in your classes, the teachers and professors, the room mates, and everyone you come in contact with and interact with should know — beyond a shadow of a doubt — that you are a follower of Christ Jesus, and realize that there is something different about you.
For the fourth thing, your parents are your guide. Guess what? They have been here before. Yes, we graduates are tempted to toss them aside because we don’t “need” them anymore. And in a sense, it is true. We don’t necessarily need our parents to change our diapers, pick us up when we fall down, or give us a schedule for our days. But we do need them — now more than ever. Trust me on this. Do NOT learn this the hard way. They are our road map, our guide through this tumultuous time between childhood and adulthood. They have been, continue to, and will never stop, teaching us lessons. We need their advice. We need them to stop us when they see a mistake we are about to make, we need them to set boundaries and rules, we need them to check on us and push us harder if we aren’t living up to our full potential in Christ. they aren’t nitpicking at us — they are being faithful stewards of what God has given them to guard — our souls. Even in college, we still need to have a respect for and duty towards our parents. These last few months, as I have been “living” away from home, I have realized in a way I never did that I need my mother and father. Not in a dependent, I-can’t-function-away-from-them sort of way, but it is nice to know they are there. I would imagine this would be particularly true if you are planning on going away to college somewhere, and living states away from our parents — I was only about three minutes from my home. It was a relief to have them hug me after a particularly hard day, to call and have advice given about this or that, to have them take me out for a parent-daughter snack in the middle of a lull in the busyness. To know that I can unburden my heart to either of them and receive the counsel, advice, or admonishment I need to hear. Many of our parents may back away from us, giving us room to grow — go to them and ask for their opinion or advice on whatever, and I am pretty sure they will gladly give it to you. They may not tell you what you need to do, but they will give you sound, godly advice that will help you decide on a way. And, you have the reward of a deeper relationship with your parents than you ever thought possible.
Lastly, never give up, no matter how hard the going gets. No matter that this person or that person has moved away; no matter that you are in a dorm room and nobody else respects your beliefs; no matter that your days are busy and full and you are too tired to even think about the hurdles the next day will bring. Keep on keeping on. Take it one day at at time. Trust me: there will be failures, as those who have already gone before both of us can attest too. There will be heartaches, there will be confusion, there will be days when you want to curl up in mommy or daddy’s lap and beg them to make it all better. But those days will pass away. They will be back — I think it is something we all have to face, seasons of discouragement. But they will make you stronger, more resilient, more prepared for the fight.
Look for the oasis in the trouble — I can guarantee there is always one, no matter how slow in coming. I can remember one particularly hard year — the same year I had mono — when my closest friends all moved away or entered college, when my next-closest friends all seemed to simultaneously turn their back on their Creator, and when I seemed to constantly be struggling with one sin or another. I longed for someone to take time and talk with me and pray with me — I longed to know that I was not alone, because, I assure you, I felt utterly devoid of companionship, even amongst my church family. And I happened to grow closer to Christ, study to know more of Him. And then I actually met a person — now a good friend — who did help me through that time. And we have since shared struggles and heartaches and laughter and worked together and rejoiced together. The moral: Christ knows what you need, so rest content in Him. I needed (and still need to :D) know Christ more, long after Him more, study His Word more than I did. I realized that I didn’t need any friends — I only needed Christ. And that is coming from someone who has long since yearned for a “bosom pal” like Anne Cuthbert had in Diana Berry =)
You see, dear graduate, we are all given a gift. The Lord has set aside a certain number of days for us to walk on this earth, and we have a certain amount of hours we have been lent to make a difference — to show forth God’s glory to everyone we meet. I beg of you — don’t waste this time. It will look different for everyone: we all have a part to fulfill in this world. Before the foundations of this world, God has prepared a way for us to walk in, a way that will bring glory to His name and His Kingdom. We may fight against it, but we will never win. It is best to surrender to the struggle and let Him carry you along. Things will happen that you don’t understand — you don’t necessarily need to. When you do, He will make it all clear.
So I would encourage you — fight hard, stand strong, and know when to surrender. Cling to Jesus, and He will carry you through.
Your sister in Christ