This spring our mailbox will spill out the blessings of living inter-generationally.
Rare handwritten envelopes, when opened, announce to us the graduations of nine teenagers. The accompanying photos are of grandsons and great-nieces, cousins’ kids and family friends. We know them….and they know us!
These stunning young people are ready to walk across a ceremonial stage, shake hands with an administrator, and accept their diplomas for the academic achievement of “making the grade.” We did that, too, five-and-a-half decades ago, as Lynden Christian High School Graduates…and we welcome yet another generation into a tradition that triggers memories for us. Isabel Waterman says, “It is indeed ironic that we spend our school days yearning to graduate and our remaining days waxing nostalgic about our school days.”
I shop for cards to congratulate them. There was a cynically funny one that quoted Robert Orben: “A graduation ceremony is an event where the commencement speaker tells thousands of students dressed in identical caps and gowns that ‘individuality’ is the key to success.” Another featured good ole’ Dr. Seuss:
You have brains in your head
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.
You’re on your own
And you know what you know.
You are the one who’ll decide where to go.
I don’t find what I am looking for in the card section. Too many of them say things like “Follow your dreams” or “Change the world” or “To thine own self be true.” These special graduates who have been running and puffing non-stop to cross the finish line don’t need additional heavy assignments piled on them right now.
I want to tell them they can smile now, and laugh…that they can stuff all that seriousness, put their exam anxiety aside, and let their goals for future success fade forward into the haze of summer. On this, their graduation day, although slightly camouflaged in school colors, each of them stands as a wondrous combination of character strengths and personality quirks, of choices made and surprising potential still to be discovered.
I want “our” graduates to know that when we older seniors look at your senior pictures, we can hardly breathe for the beauty in them! And while our double-shot life-latte’ of idealism and energy is nearly gone, your full and steaming cups seem to invite us back to the table. Being with you gives us joy.
Just let your hearts and your heads co-spiral into a whirl of enjoyment for now. Spontaneous thankfulness takes hardly any effort at all. Tick those gifts off by the thousands: pizza and taste buds, parents and grandparents, books and movies, pranksters and encouragers, open houses and open hearts, comfortable shoes and eyes that smile, wheels and boat rides, chemistry and hurdles (the last two have double meanings, so count them twice). Be thankful for the literal “looking up to” that you experience from those who are younger and smaller, the mind-blowing uniqueness of each of your peers if you refuse to compare, the bottom-line love of your family, and the unconditional love of your God.
And should I divulge this? That fifty-plus years after our own graduations, we wear clothes for comfort, not for looks. We know that freedom means being forgiven. That no one can always do their best or be their best. That loving others is the most important thing. That we wish we had taken more time to enjoy and less effort to strive. That we are all surprised at the way life turned out. That Dr. Seuss was slightly off: We do not choose all the plot directions and wonderfully crazy characters that will come into our lives. A creative and sovereign Storyteller is at work.
And lastly…that too often we forget to stop and sit and read and listen to what our Author God is writing into our lives. This is what He would likely say on your graduation card:
You are beloved already!
You have nothing to prove!