I was honored to deliver the commencement speech at Saddleback Valley Christian School’s high school graduation on June 4, 2010. Below is the text.
There is an urban legend that in 1941 when Winston Churchill addressed students at his alma mater, he uttered three words “Never give up.” As the story goes, after repeating this phrase a few times, he sat down. I took this story as my inspiration when writing this speech, however, I struggled with emulating Churchill’s brevity. Imagine my relief then, when I researched and found out that Churchill’s speech was actually much longer. However for the sake of the graduates and the audience, I will still try to imitate Churchill and be similarly concise and in fact, I think I have Churchill beat. For when I look back on my life and I think of what I wish someone had told me as I graduated from high school and embarked on the journey of adulthood, it’s not three words, but two that come to mind: trust and obey. And while I admire the content of Churchill’s speech, I believe these two words are more powerful than his message of perseverance and fortitude. For in these two words, we are drawn closer to Christ.
Ask most people if life turned out the way that they expected, and you will quickly learn than it did not. That is because contrary to popular psychotherapy platitudes; you cannot do anything, be anything, or have anything that you want. Circumstances, God-given abilities, and opportunities will probably inhibit your ability to craft the life that you anticipate at this moment. Despite any desire to the contrary – I was never going to be a middle linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys. In the same way, opportunities that you can not possibly see at this time will present themselves and will change the direction that your life is headed. Life will surprise you – sometimes in good ways, and sometimes in heart-wrenching, life-altering ways. However, for the follower of Christ, their trust in God should be constant. For regardless of the circumstances of this life, it does not change God’s goodness, and the fact that for those who love Him, He is actively working for their good. Trusting in Him is not wishful thinking that life will get better, but a steady confidence, that even if life is hard, God is faithful – He keeps His promises to protect and provide for His children. He is also good – that is the essence of who He is, and He not only lavishes His grace upon us, but He desires to pour out His goodness even in the trials and difficulties. God’s protecting you, from bad things of which we may never be aware. He is providing for you, in both seen and unseen ways. And He’s preparing you – for that which He has called you to do. We don’t know the whole stories of our life, but for those that believe in Him, we do know the end of the story. And knowing that our future is secure, we can confidently trust Him in the in-between.
Because we can trust in Him, it makes sense that we would do the things that He has called us to do. In short, that we would obey Him. A lot of times we think of “obey” as a word that constrains – we can’t do this or we can’t do that. But that’s not the way that God intends it. God, in His Word, has told us what we should do because He cares about our good. Six months ago, I went to Hawaii with my husband and we came upon a very dark, very narrow and very long lava tube. My adventurous and spontaneous husband decided we should go into it. I can’t say that I was a big fan of this idea, because I’m the type of person who prints out a Google map even though I have a GPS in my car and on my phone. I like to be very sure of where I am going which is not possible in a dark cave. Thankfully, my dad who was always prepared for anything, had sent us off to Hawaii with two flashlights.
As we navigated our way through this dark and cavernous trail underneath the Earth’s surface, the flashlights became increasingly essential. We needed it to know where to step and what to avoid. Sometimes we couldn’t see beyond the next step that our foot would take, and I was so grateful to have a small beam of light to know exactly what I would be stepping on. How much more grateful I would have been for a guide who could tell us, “Watch this rock – it’s shaky” or “we have to go on this side of the water so that we don’t slip.” Had that guide been there, there’s no way I would have ignored his instruction because he had been there before – and he knew the right way to the end. I wouldn’t have thought – “well sure you say this way is dangerous, but it looks like a lot of fun” – or “he is probably only telling me that because he’s a giant killjoy – why would I listen to him?” That would have been ridiculous as well as stupid. In the same way, God’s Word is called a light because it serves the same function as that flashlight – illuminating the way that we should walk. And God is like that guide I wish I had – telling us where to walk because He desires for us to get safely and successfully to the end. He knows the way – not only has He prepared it for us, but He’s walked the path that we are on.
Hebrews 4:15-16 says
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 1Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Christ has walked this path – and perfectly obeyed. As we confidently trust Him, may we increasingly do the same.
Now as Mr. Henjum is well aware, one of the risks in giving someone a microphone is that you are never sure what they will say once they’ve been given this power. And it would be unfortunate if I didn’t use this opportunity to say a word about my mom, Mrs. Clark. As you may know, after much prayer and consideration, my mom has decided to retire and after over 20 years of teaching, this will her last high school graduation as a member of the faculty. What many of you may not know, is that not only is Mrs. Clark my mom, but she was also my junior high science teacher. And because of her, I can still tell you the steps in the scientific method, as well as the levels of the biological classification system. I can kind of tell you how a virus replicates, and I can give you Biblical and scientific support for Creationism. Because of this & many other things I learned in her class that have been surprisingly useful in life, I can unequivocally say that my mom is a great teacher. However, what makes my mom truly exceptional is not that she can explain concepts in a manner that makes sense to students, or that she faithfully and diligently sends out Good News cards, or even that she can do more push-ups and wall-sits then most of the guys in her class – what truly makes her a great teacher is that when a student walks into her classroom, they become one of her kids. And I can confidentally tell you that my mom loves her kids. Because of this love, every year, my mom, Mrs. Clark, tells her students that she prays three things for their lives. First, that they would come to know Christ and accept Him as their Lord. Second that they would grow in the wisdom and knowledge of Him. And thirdly, that if they do something wrong, that they would get caught. She tells them this, because she knows that the more we obey God in the small things, the greater chance that we will obey Him when times of extreme trial come. And she also knows that if we endure discipline when we disobey, we’re more likely to obey God in the future. In other words, I’m repeating today what some of you have been hearing from my mom since 7th grade – trust and obey.
My mom tells her students this because she loves them and she desires that God’s will would be made manifest in their life and for the same reason, I share it with you tonight because it is my prayer that as you go out into the rest of your life, that you would be increasingly like Christ.
When D.L Moody was sent word that his granddaughter had been born in 1899, he telegraphed back this message ““[I am] thankful for the good news. May she become famous in the kingdom of Heaven. [That] is the prayer of her grandfather!” I know that for many of the people in this room, people who have loved and supported you on this journey, their prayer is the same. For they know that regardless of the accolades and accomplishments that you achieve on this Earth, what really counts is what is accomplished for the sake of Heaven. If you haven’t yet, don’t leave tonight without making a commitment to live for Christ – not only trusting Him as your Savior, but acknowledging Him as Lord –deciding that He is your boss and you will follow His instructions.
Life may not turn out the way that you wanted – Trust God – knowing with confidence that He will provide, protect, and prepare you. Life will send you challenges – obey Him – knowing that although there may be times that it may not seem to matter in this life, it will surely matter in the next. And that they only things that truly matter in this life, are those that also matter in the next.
Congratulations Class of 2010.