On days when I like to shock people, I tell them that I graduated college at 19. It’s a true statement, but it’s not one I usually share because people have all sorts of preconceptions about what that means (Also, it feels a little deceptive as shortly thereafter I turned 20.) Almost immediately after someone hears this, their very first question is, “So are you some sort of genius or something?” I quickly have to explain to them that I’m not. I was just a very disciplined student and that God had a plan for my life that allowed me to graduate a little earlier than most. Although many find this answer unsatisfactory, it happens to be the truth.
I was thinking of this recently as I shared my story with a group of students. Those who know me know that another part of my story is that my dad passed away very unexpectedly two years ago. Never before had I put those two incidents – my early graduation and my father’s heavenly homecoming – so close together. As I did so, I realized that what was true for me, was also true of my dad. He received an early “graduation” because he was so disciplined about living for God while on this Earth. The commencement of his eternal life started a earlier than expected, but that wasn’t an accident. He had finished the work that God called him to do.
There are at least three ways in which my dad demonstrated his disciplined pursuit of God. They are:
- He devoted himself to the Scriptures – As I’ve written about my dad before, he was a student of the Bible. However, my dad didn’t just read the Scriptures – he studied and memorized them. Upon his passing, I had the chance to see the commentary that he was working on putting together. We also found his ring of notecards that he was using to commit even more of God’s Word to memory. My dad didn’t just consume Scripture – he loved it. And his life reflected that devotion.
- He prayed expectantly – One of the things that I grew to appreciate about my dad was his penchant for making lists. Like many people, he kept a prayer list, but he also noted when and how those prayer requests were answered. Additionally, he kept this list in his planner so he always had a handy reminder of God’s faithfulness and generosity. My dad prayed expecting an answer and looked forward to when he would write that answer on his list.
- He discipled purposefully – When I was younger, my dad was involved in all sorts of formal discipleship programs at church. When I grew older, his work took him farther from home, and he couldn’t make all of the scheduled programs. However, that didn’t stop him from discipling. He looked for opportunities to help others grow in their faith and intentionally pursued those opportunities that God provided. Whether as part of a formal program or not, he was committed to sharing God’s truth with others and helping them in their walk with God.
Graduation ceremonies are usually occasions of much celebration as we acknowledge the start of the next chapter in a person’s life. My dad’s commencement into Heaven may have been sooner than we expected, but I’m sure he was met with much Heavenly applause. After all, he lived a life worthy of an early graduation, with honors.