As May has come to an end, we also have come to the end of the season for commencements. Whether a child is finishing pre-school or a young adult is graduating from high school or college, it seems like the whole world is graduating as summer approaches.
Have you ever thought about how important this time is for those who are graduates? It is a time of new beginnings, a time to celebrate accomplishments, a time for tears as we say goodbye to some who are such a part of one’s life and world. But the most important step is the next step.
Can you remember what the world looked like to you when you graduated? So many things seemed possible. So many things beckoned us to come and try. It is as if we were standing before a blank canvas just waiting for us to “paint” the picture of our lives.
For too many, we have lost contact with those who we were close to. If you are like most, you remember the names of those you went to high school with better than those who we knew ten or twenty years ago. Most could not wait to finish school but now think, 'Where in the world did the time go?' If only life was as simple as those days.
What about all the dreams and hopes that inspired us? What about the opportunities that were waiting? What about the “new day” we were going to create?
Maybe we need to remind those who have just graduated or ourselves who graduated a long time ago, that living is not a matter of arriving at a destination but rather life is a journey. When one walks across the stage and gets a handshake and diploma, the next steps are back into reality. Life has not stopped but only a corner has been turned.
Almost four decades ago Cathy Guisewite created the comic strip, “Cathy”. The cartoon had a thirty four year run in many newspapers. She was able to get us to laugh at the challenges of balancing eating, work, and relationships. She once wrote, “Let yourself re-graduate every four years. Celebrate what you have done. Admit what you are not doing. Think about what is important to you and make some changes. If you give yourself a chance to move on, you can do anything.”
We need to take some time to celebrate what we are doing in our lives. We may face some large challenges in the future. It gives us strength and hope to face the new challenges as we remember the ones already met and conquered. We need to take time to mark our progress. We may have a lot ahead of us, but let’s be thankful for what we have done.
Graduation is a time for starting new things in our lives. We close one door and open another. Maybe every four years or so, we should be open to new challenges, dreams, and opportunities. It has been said, “If you give yourself a chance to move on, you can do so much more.” The challenge is to treat each new day as an open door.
Someone has said that a rut is but an open ended grave. How many of us are moving through each day without asking what really matters and should I be doing some things differently.
Now graduation means one has to move on. The graduates we spent May honoring now have to find other things to do with their lives. It might mean another level of education, or a job, or at least the search for one. It might mean joining one of the branches of the military or special training to begin a career. But the graduate has to move on. For many of us, it would be good at least to be open to the possibility of taking a different route in life. To be open to closing a door in order to go through a new one.
This new beginning may mean adding some new things to our life, or eliminating some of the things that have latched on to us. Whether what is needed is addition or subtraction, it means we can grow to be more effective in what we are seeking to do. Dare we dream new dreams as our new graduates are doing? Dare we be open to new possibilities? John Ortberg said it well in a title of one of his first books, “If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat.”
In his most recent book, “All the Places to Go, How Will You Know?” Ortberg writes, “Some of us see the doors and seize them, and so life becomes a divine adventure. Some of us shrink back or fail to see. A room with no door is a prison.” I challenge you to join our new graduates and be open to “commencing” some new ventures in your living.
B. Wiley Stephens is a retired United Methodist Minister and author who now resides in Covington.