As a professional educator, there are often things that I want to say to my students that my respect for those in authority (see 1 Peter 2) prevents me from expressing (too) openly. In fact, there are times when I bite my tongue so fiercely that it hurts. So, let me put that hat on the rack and jot down here those things that I wish I could say to my students – specifically my graduating seniors:
1. Accepting Christ is the most important decision you can make.
Though it is possible to find success outside of a relationship with Christ, those things that truly matter – happiness, joy, love, peace, forgiveness – can only be found inside that relationship. True success (as well as eternity) rests on this decision alone.
2. Absolute truth exists.
Though the modern world refuses to admit it, there is an absolute moral standard, a rule by which all behavior may be measured. The notion that we can somehow determine our own concepts of right and wrong has led us down a deceptive and destructive path. Use the life of Christ. Examine your actions through that lens. That is where truth exists.
3. The Bible is the infallible Word of God.
Discard the religious trappings that have been attached to this all-time bestseller. Look beyond those who have taken passages of scripture out of context and used them as an excuse to hate. Look, read, study, and know that if you apply its principles to life, then life works. Period.
4. There is one path to God.
The Cheshire Cat told Alice, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” Destination demands direction, and we have been given an infallible GPS. Acceptance of Christ as the Son of God as well as his sacrifice at Calvary is the only way for us to return to a right and eternal relationship with God. Don’t be led astray.
5. You will never be too smart for God.
In the context of worldly intelligence, much of what Christ taught seems extreme, even insane. Love the unlovable. Forgive without measure. Give until it hurts to those who don’t deserve it. Put yourself last. The world will attempt to convince you that this is nonsense, and to them, it is. But remember, “God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise” (1 Cor. 1:27).
6. You can’t take it with you.
There is nothing, absolutely nothing, wrong with making a good living. Money, as a tool, can put you in a position to make a difference in the lives of others. Money as a goal fosters greed and selfishness. Do what you love. Make a difference. Money and “stuff” lose all value when your life is over; the impact you have had on the lives of others does not.
7. Make space for grace.
In your life and in the lives of those you meet, there will failures, disappointments, betrayals, and mistakes. Make space for grace. Condemnation is not part of God’s plan for you or for others. Forgive yourself. Forgive others, even (especially!) when they don’t deserve it. You can’t understand their struggle. They can’t understand yours. Show them the same grace that Christ showed us and forgive.
At your failures. At your successes. At embarrassment. At recognition. At betrayal. At triumph. Laugh. It is restorative. It is healthy. It banishes sadness and burns calories. Too many people take themselves too seriously and, as a result, find it difficult to endure hard times. Laugh.
Tears cleanse the soul. Grief is real. Hardship is real. Trouble is real. In those times when these hit, cry. Cry alone. Find others to cry with you. There is no shame in tears. When confronted with the grief of his friends, Christ himself wept. Joys shared multiply; troubles shared divide. Cry.
There is no greater gift that we have been given, and no other emotion that testifies as strongly to the existence of a Creator. That we can choose love when anger and hate seems to be our default speaks to a fallen world, but also to the redemptive power of the cross. Choose love. When the relationship is on the rocks and it is easy to place blame, choose love. Even though your heart could be broken, choose love. Even when revenge seems within reach, choose love. There is freedom and joy in this, and each time we make this choice, we draw closer to the One who made us.
Life in a fallen world can be tough. There are bills to pay and responsibilities that must be met. Flat tires and spare tires happen. Brussel sprouts are good for you; doughnuts aren’t. Life is tough, but it is also beautiful. Sunrise in the eyes of child; a kiss by firelight; the night sky in the desert; a rocking chair, a cup of coffee, and time alone with God; the joy on the face of anyone who has just been introduced to my Savior: these are the things for which we live, and, when our time here has drawn to a close and we wake in paradise, these are the things which will bring a smile to the face of God. I yearn to hear him say, “Well done,” but what I really want is a “high-five” from my Jesus as I walk through gates and to feel him lean in and whisper, “you killed it down there!”