Well it is that time of the year again…graduations… end of school and the start of summer.
It is an oxymoronic time too. We experience the joyful sadness of school ending and vacations starting.
We enjoy the festive tranquility that this much needed break offers.
Now instead of becoming redundant with my awfully good examples of oxymoronic phrases…
Speaking of oxymoron, who hear remembers the song Bitter Sweet Symphony by the Verve? For some reason, this song always makes me think of graduation.
This 1997 hit song really deals with something a think a lot of people deal with… being torn between taking a path you feel compelled to go down vs. a path you want to follow.
Whether this is about which college or school you want to go to, or what sport you want to play, what classes to take, what job to get… What drives us to make the decisions we make?
In today’s society, money seems to be a huge factor in the decisions we make.
This career will pay me more than that one.
This school is giving me more of a scholarship than that one.
But this makes me ask…is that right?!
When I was younger I KNEW what I wanted to do when I was older…
For the longest time I just KNEW that I was going to the starting forward for the US National Soccer team. I did the math and figured that by the age of 17 I would be able to play in 2006 World Cup in Germany. Getting started so early would mean that I would then also be able to play in the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. And naturally, since I was going to have a long career because I would just never suffer an injuries, I would then be able to play in the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and would be able to retire in my mid 30’s. I had my whole life figured out.
But of course, I had to have a back-up plan….you know, just in case. So I was going to the next Frank Lloyd Wright. Because becoming one of the most recognizable, famous architects in the world. But I was going to do him one better. I wasn’t just going to design the buildings…I was also going to be a carpenter and physically build the houses I designed myself.
So there I was… 12 years old and I had my whole life figured out.
I loved playing soccer… so I was going to do that for a living.
I loved drawing and designing things…so I was going to do that for a living.
I loved making things and watching as things came together… so I was going to do that for a living.
As I was thinking back to this…I realized something…
Never, not for a second did that little 12 year old version of myself ever factor in money into my decisions. It was not something I cared about. I simply wanted to do something that I loved.
This morning I stumbled across a commencement speech given at Dillard University by the one and only Denzel Washington.
You can watch the whole video here,
but some of the things he said are great things to keep in mind.
1. 1. Put God first. Especially for our youth that are heading off to college, this is extremely difficult. I have mentioned this stat many times in the past. Typically speaking 70-75% of high school youth who are active in youth group at a church will leave after graduation. To put this in perspective, we just celebrated about 15 of our high school seniors. Statistics say that in 4 years, only 4 of them will still be involved with a church. As Denzel says, “…I didn’t always stick with Him, but He stuck with me.” You may wander, but God will always be there. Put God first in everything you do and remember that everything we have is because of the grace of God.
2. Fail Big. When I first started at Holy Communion, I am not going to lie…I had no idea what I was doing. They do not really have many classes that prepare you exactly what it is going to be like to be a youth minister. You instantly become a logistics professional, a hype man, a therapists, a teacher, a preacher, a leader, a follower, a role model, a friend, a mentor, a marketing and advertisement agency, a write, a scholar, a finance officer…but one thing I was told was to just fail forward. Everything you do will not always work out. But take a lesson from everything you do and keep moving forward. Don’t be afraid to fail…especially if you are dreaming big.
3. You never see a U-Haul behind a hearse. About 2000 BC, the Egyptians built pyramids as tombs for the pharaohs and their queens. In the rooms that they were buried, all of the belongings and wealth was buried in the room with their bodies. They believed that they need there riches to support themselves in the afterlife. That is not what we believe today. When asked what he needed to do to follow Jesus, the rich young ruler was told that he must first give up all his possessions. “It’s not how much you have, it’s what you do with it.”
4. Say thank you. Behind every great person…is a group of people who have been there to support you and be there for you through thick and then. Never forget that. One of the most amazing things I have seen this past year is the sense of community in this youth group. There is so much love in this group. That group is and will be there for. When you are down, look to them to hold you up. “When you get it, reach back, pull someone else up.” In a society that strives to be independent, break the mold.