Tuesday, May 6, 2014

To the Graduating Class of 2014

Have you ever imagined what you'd say if you were invited to give a university's commencement address?  Here's what I think I'd say if I'd been asked to give the keynote speech at a private, evangelical university during this spring's graduation season:

To the Class of 2014, to your parents and loved ones, to your professors and advisers, and the esteemed leadership of this university, I bid you all a hearty "congratulations!" for having reached this moment in your personal histories.

After all, today isn't just about you people sitting here wearing caps and gowns.  It's about you people who gave birth to these people graduating today.  It's about the people who raised these students.  Who nurtured, protected, taught, and disciplined these students.  Those among us here wearing caps and gowns are receiving the most attention today, but today is one of the last days in your lives, dear students, where life will be all about you.

Some of you will go on to graduate school, but when you graduate with another degree, you'll be even more aware then of how much you still don't know.  Most of you will get married at some point in the future, and while that will be a big day indeed, it won't be all about you, but about you and somebody else.  The next time something will be really important, and all about you, will be the day of your funeral, and you won't even be here to witness it.  But for the most part, the way you spend your time, starting from this day forward, will be that for which people end up remembering you... when you're dead.

Sure, maybe you've had a wonderful childhood, and a fun time in high school, and a blast in college.  And now, you're ready to head out into this troubled world and make a difference.

So go and make a difference.

Up until this point, what you've just heard is what almost every other graduating senior is hearing across North America this month, from the smallest rural high school to the most expensive Ivy League university, and from the most liberal liberal arts college, to the most conservative, evangelical campus in the land.  I've included it in this speech because it's mostly true, it's part of the time-honored tradition of college graduation ceremonies that comes free with your cap and gown rental, and because hardly anybody pays attention to the first part of any speech, figuring it's all preliminaries, preamble, and pontificating.

So, ladies and gentlemen, here's where we go off-script:  This day isn't really about you at all.  It's not about your parents, your teachers, or this institution's employees.  It's about God.

Everything is about God.  The sex in which your parents engaged to bring you into this world.  Your eye color.  Your IQ.  What kind of shoes you're wearing today.  Who your great-great-great-great grandmother was on your father's side.  The fact that we're sitting here, today, in the state of _____, in the glorious United States of America.  It's all about God.

It's all about God.

It's.  All.  About.  God.

What you've majored in is all about God.  Who you're currently dating - or not dating - is all about God.  Where you're going to go immediately after this ceremony is over is all about God.  Where you'll be living two years from now is all about God.   Where you'll be fifty-six years from now is all about God.  Where you'll work, how many kids you'll have - or not have, how many people you'll personally lead to the Lord during your lifetime, what music you like, those for whom you'll vote, how you'll react if one of your children decides they're gay, what time it is at this precise second, how many personal computers you'll have in your home, the circumstances under which you leave your next job, the gender of the next baby you see, the number of petals on the next flower you pick, what you think of how I look, the Biblical passage upon which your personal quiet time tomorrow will be based, E equals M C squared, what your graduation gown is made of, how many phone numbers are stored on your cell phone, when you die, where you'll spend eternity...

It's all about God.

But hey - you're educated now.  Trite answers don't work for you.  You've just spent almost half a decade in a Christian scholastic environment.  Besides, you've been around the block at least once by now.  Maybe had a failed experiment with extramarital sex.  Maybe you're already married, and finding the thorns in your bed of roses.  Maybe you didn't have a happy childhood.  Maybe you're scarred from the evils of divorce.  Maybe this college education has sunk you deeply into debt.  You're worried about finding a job.  Being able to afford a decent home.  What it will be like raising a family in our bacchanalian society.

"It's NOT all about God," you protest.  It's about sin, depravity, economics, bad choices, wisdom, education, love, peace, happiness, responsibility, fun, money, climbing ladders, opportunities, being a Republican, being a Democrat, being part of the solution, thinking, praying, talking, communicating...

But from Whom does all of this flow?  Who is the Creator?  Who is the Redeemer?  Who is the Sustainer?  Who is the Sanctifier?

If you don't believe that everything, everyone, time, infinity, space, and reality is all about God, then... sure, you can still be president of the United States.  You can still create the world's most popular technology.  You can mediate wars, you can sail ships, you can invent, and sing, and write, and hope, and laugh, and have sex, and procreate, and practice medicine, and write laws, and preach, and raise a family, and leave here today believing that this world is your oyster.

Nevertheless, it's still all about God.  Whether you want to believe it or not.  Whether you take Him seriously or not.  Whether you coast along with the assumption that your parents' faith will get you through the pearly gates, or whether you leave here today and have nothing more to do with organized religion of any kind.  God doesn't depend on you anyway, or your faith in Him, or the good things you do.  He is.

God.  Is.

You can be the world's most ardent pro-life, right-wing, anti-tax, wrap-the-cross-in-the-American-flag conservative, and still not be convinced that it's all about God.

Or you can act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.  You can let the Fruit of the Spirit entwine every crevice of your heart, and brain, and skeleton:  Love.  Joy.  Peace.  Patience.  Kindness.  Goodness.  Faithfulness.  Gentleness.  Self-control.


Because it's all about God.

It's all about God.

It's.  All.  About.  God.

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