By David Swartz
Graduation, the goal, the dream…in some cases, the miracle. When I speak on campuses, I can’t help but notice that some people have been there for a long time. “When do you plan to make your escape (graduate)? They just grin. To brutalize Ecclesiastes a little, “There is a time to grin…” And graduation is one of those times. In an earlier post in tribute to the professors who survived me, I recalled my own from Clarion University. But I also remember another graduation, my daughter’s from Western Michigan University in 2001. I delivered both the invocation and the benediction – a prayer for going in and one for going out. So as you “Pomp and Circumstance” your way down the aisle doing the spinning head trick from the “Exorcist” looking for your family and friends, here’s a prayer for you as you take your seat.
Lord. I’m honored to come before You on this occasion and to say on the behalf of many, “We are proud today.” And I mean so proud we could bust, take pictures until we can’t see straight and go buy the biggest steak in town. That kind of proud! Someone we care about has done well and we’re here today to celebrate with them.
Lord, today we are grateful –
For the sheer magnificence of the mind. By thinking, by the sublime rippling of the muscles of thought, people like DaVinci, Pascal, Bach, Einstein and King have unleashed, not the armies of history, but the power of ideas to change the world. Who knows what lies primed in the lives of those in this room today? We pray that somewhere in-between the inhaling of class notes, spitting them back out on tests and the writing of papers, that thinking has happened instead of occasionally dusting off or rearranging the mental furniture of our mind.
For the sweet taste of accomplishment. In a world that persistently asks, “What have you done lately?”, we are here to celebrate hard work completed and done well. Do not let them be cheated of that joy today.
For sacrifices made by others. Most of these did not do this alone. Others, many of them present today, will walk this stage today in spirit with the hearts of these graduates. Extra hours, extra jobs were worked. Many did without so their student could have. and these graduates may never know what it felt like, after years of parenting, to move a son or a daughter into a freshman dorm that first semester and then drive away knowing that a piece of their little boy or girl won’t be coming home again. (That is, until a few years from now when they drive their children off to the university.)
For the privilege of making those sacrifices for these in the robes today. We would do it again in a heartbeat.
And then as we clutch that diploma and as they start to play the alma mater we ignored at tons of sports events, we may get ambushed by a strange lump in the throat. This place called college that defined the last four (five? six?) years of our life is about to fade in our rear view mirror. Know it or not, a piece of us will stay there. Jesus Christ met some of us here. And He will be walking out with us as we go. As we “Pomp” our way out for pictures and dinner, here’s a prayer for you as you go.
Lord, bless these graduates. In the deepest Hebrew way, do good to them.
Bless them with passion. Let them move out from this day, not into jobs, but into a calling. Lord, you said,”A man’s life does not consist of the abundance of things that he possesses.” Let something smolder and burn deep on the altars of their heart that drives and carries them from here so that they will do more than fill their days with their own feeble thunder.
Bless them with a sense of responsibility. Lord, they not only have a contribution to make: they have a contribution they must make. A person wrapped up in himself is the smallest package in the world. In a world full of fear and insecurity, they must escape the gravitational pull of their own navel. A life that we clutch, grab and hoard to ourselves is worth little to anybody, especially to ourselves.
Bless them with humility. We hold in our hands today evidence certified by the state that we’ve received an education. If that is true, let us know that our education is just beginning. Out ahead, many who have less education that we do have much to teach us. Lord, if we act like your voice is speaking only when our mouth is open, we will miss much.
Bless them with a legacy. Allow them to work the muscles of this education so that, thirty years from now, they will not only have been educated – they will have been found to have become in the ensuing years, wise. Lord, grant this as these two things don’t always show up in the same person. These today will mark the world whether they are trying to or not. Let the shadow of their mark stretch far beyond their liabilities and limitations. Let them know the rich satisfaction, not of merely making a living, but of living a life – full, rich and deep. And whether they’ve thought much about You or not, watch over them. It can get awfully cold out there. Thank you that you are not far from any one of us.
And Lord…did I remember to say that we’re proud today? Amen
David Swartz pastors Bethel Baptist Church in Roseville, Michigan. He thinks that jazz is sacred music, that books are better company than most people, and that university towns rock. He blogs at geezeronthequad.com and is a regular contributor to the Patheos Book Club.