from an article originally posted May 25, 2014...
Friday night I had the great privilege of speaking to the graduating class of 2014 from Evangelical Christian Academy. They had a lovely service that honored the accomplishments of the students as well as the families that supported the students throughout their education.
As I was sitting in the audience waiting to speak, I felt like I was on a roller coaster of nervous emotions. I hate feeling nervous. Hate it! It feels out of control, and no matter of trying to calm myself down helped. But I had prepared and prepared, and once I walked on stage I calmed down, and once I started, I really enjoyed myself. Mickey was sitting beside me in the pew making comments to try and calm me down. So many of the graduating girls were wearing high heels that looked utterly impossible to walk in more than two steps. I started to fixate on their high heels, then I started to imagine myself tripping as I walked up on the stage. It wasn’t pretty, the inside of my head part of me.
But I made it through the speech and as I sat down I felt, in that moment, summer vacation had started for our family. The kids had all finished school, and I had finished my speech, so summer break to commence. It was so good to have the faces of Mickey, Jason, and Ella in the audience cheering me on.
I ended my speech with a letter to the graduates and I also included my future graduates.
Your story is beautifully written, rest in it. God delights in you. He sings over you, he is pleased with the creation that is uniquely you. Don’t be afraid to let another know you—I mean really know you. If God really knows you and loves you, then with courage you can let another know you. Messy, beautiful you. You have this one life; you have been given love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and joy. Share it! Give it away! There is no reason to withhold it. Let all that Jesus has poured into you, all that your parents, your siblings, your teachers, your churches, and your community has lovingly poured into you pour out...give it away. From the overflow of love, love the hurting world around you and love the heart sitting beside you.
There will be moments, hard moments where God will be specifically loving your heart in hard ways. He will be there, and he will be enough. You have imagined what you want your life to be, beautifully imagined it. When life meets you with unmet expectations, your temptation will be to move away from Jesus. I challenge you tonight—when you meet those hard unmet expectations of life, I challenge you in that edge of life to move near to Jesus.
I never expected cancer at this young age, but I know what I can expect. I can expect his love and nearness to meet me in the hard edges of life. I’m learning, every day I’m learning that he is enough. It will be a lifelong lesson I will have to learn, but Jesus will be gentle and patient in teaching us all.... He is enough.
We often feel when we have not lived up to our own dreams, or when life isn’t as we expected it, we struggle to feel we have wasted our lives or that we are living without purpose. Often God uses these painful edges of life to draw us into a deeper, richer relationship with him. His nearness is enough—it has to be.
Let the nearness of God give you courage to face life. And when his nearness doesn’t seem near, let those around you remind you. Community matters, your life was meant to be lived with others.
Tonight I want you all to know:
Your life matters,
your words matter,
you are not a mistake,
there is a lovely plan for your life,
and we are so thankful for the years you have already been given. Thank you for letting us be a witness to your life.
So graduates, walk across this stage tonight, and walk into this next season of life with the promise of God’s nearness going with you. And tonight, I’m praying that Jesus would give you eyes to see the very best of life that will meet you in grace. Not only the future graduations from college, marriage and future children and careers. But grace in the small beautiful moments:
giggles with friends,
a hike on a fall day,
a hot cup of coffee,
a great bargain,
a view of a beautiful mountain,
a movie that touches your heart,
a dinner shared around the table with people that love you.
The big moments matter, and they await you, but the brilliant part of your story is awaiting you on the boring, mundane days sitting beside a fire on a rainy day. Jesus will be there for all of it. He brings the big graces as well as the little ones. And what cancer has taught me is that the small graces today as well as the big ones are the essence of living in faith.
So, today is a giant grace day. You have made it through high school. Today we give thanks for the brilliant story that has grown in you to bring you to this day. Walk proudly across this stage, we join you in celebrating this moment. But walk across this stage and into the grace that awaits your brilliant story. The world will tell you a thousand ways that will scream you have arrived or you are successful. But today I want you to know that knowing Jesus and His nearness is all I hope for your beautiful life. Thank you for the privilege of getting to share tonight with you!