This year marks a rather illustrious change in our household. We will be celebrating two graduations. My daughter graduates from Ball State University, and my son will graduate (we hope and pray) from Brownsburg High School. In short, life is moving full-speed ahead and my wife and I, by August, hope to experience the joys of an “empty nest” after our daughter gets a job and our son leaves for college, preferably a college that is far away and will take days to transit.
We are not saddened by these changes, but celebrate them with the aplomb and energies of two older people who crave silence. My wife and I also hope to visit our basement soon – a space we have not seen in years, but by faith believe still exists and we wish to inhabit.
Our goal will be to ensure that our graduates do not move back into the basement – and toward that end, we dream of remodeling it to “old folk” specs, complete with massage recliners, large screen TV and a surround-sound stereo system that can cut through our hearing aids.
Graduations may be a remarkable achievement for the young and should always be recognized and celebrated in church. But I would maintain that graduations are far more impressive to the parents who financed them. In fact, I’m amazed I was able to write all of those checks, that my wife and I were able to live for four years on bread and water, and that our cars still run, despite being held together with duct tape. I’m proud of my children for showing me the path to humility. I could have taken a vow of poverty during these college years and been perfectly at home among my Catholic friends in the monastic orders.
Graduations also remind me of many biblical transitions. The arduous journey out of Egypt comes to mind (though 40 years is a bit too long to earn a bachelors degree) and when the exiles returned from Babylon they celebrated by remodeling the old homestead. In our Christian understanding, I suppose death might be seen as a type of graduation. We walk from one stage to another and God hands us a diploma and says, “Well done.”
I hope everyone knows at least one graduate in the congregation. We would do well to say: “Congratulations!” A graduation is no small achievement. It marks an ability to finish and to complete. And this is a trait worth possessing in large quantity. Especially, if we yearn to finish our course, and to run our life’s race with confidence and joy.
But when you greet the graduates this year, don’t forget the parents. They are there – in the background. You’ll recognize them. They are the ones who are smiling.
Todd Outcalt, along with Michelle Knight, pastors Calvary UMC in Brownsburg and has written He Said, She Said: Biblical Stories from a Male and Female Perspective. Todd is the author of 22 other titles and writes regularly for magazines such as YouthWorker, Preaching, The Christian Science Monitor, and Rev!.