I gave my first commencement address on Saturday at Flushing Christian School (8th grade), a graduation of sorts for me as well as the students. Nineteen years ago, I was a self-conscious 8th grader giving the saluditory speach at my own junior high school graduation (self conscious mainly because of the make-up hiding bruising from a high and tight little league fastball that had found my face two nights earlier!).
Speaking for a Christian school allowed for a Biblical-based reflection, appropriate, because Scripture speaks time and again of life as a "journey" encompassing many "seasons" that move us "from glory to glory" and "faith to faith." All of the great biblical characters move from one phase to another, and many passages celebrate past accomplishments even as they contemplate new endeavors.
One such passage, Joshua 1:6-8, records the commencement address God gave Joshua as he was graduating from the University of Moses. It identifies three principles every graduate must take with them in order to "be prosperous and successful" (v. 8b) in the next season of their lives.
1. Have courage: "Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous." (v. 6-7a)
Graduations are times of mixed emotions, ranging from pride for achieving a milestone to fear about what awaits us in an unfamiliar world. God says to move forward anyway, with courage, trusting that His plan is made perfect in our uncertainty and weaknesses.
2. Be consistent: "Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go." (v. 7b)
As I prepared for my original 8th grade speech, my mother dropped a nugget of truth that I've never forgotten: "In consistency lies the power." Our lives are the sum total of the ordinary choices we make every day. Disciplined choices consistently made keep us tracking with God's plan and produce lives worthy of his name.
3. Remain Christ-centered: "Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. " (v. 8a)
Graduates have their lives turned upside down over night. When they are finally comfortable in one setting and have achieved the pinacle of status therein, it's time to move on. When the transition involves teenagers, the added realities of adolecense and high school society compound the challenges. Meditating on Christ and who He calls us to be reveals identity and belonging.
Paul restates the same principles in another of the great commencement passages in Philippians 3:12-16 where he urges us to "forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead," while also "living up to what we have already attained."Related: Judah graduates from Kindergarten on Tuesday.