On a bright and sunny Sunday, it happened. There we were, sitting up in the bleachers. And there they came, a line of black-robed, tasseled graduates processing into the gym.
There’s something indefinable in the strains of “Pomp and Circumstance.” Something deeply majestic; full of import, of meaning. “This is a momentous occasion,” it says, “and we’ve gathered today to mark it.”
Endings. Beginnings. Significant achievements. Milestones, markers and stones laid up in altars. All of that one feels, but cannot, perhaps, express as those black-robed graduates march past, and “Pomp and Circumstance,” it plays.
What a beautiful ceremony was held on the campus of Bethel College. Before a standing-room-only crowd, professors in ceremonial robes filed in; an invocation was given; the concert choir and their talented soloist sang “Nothing is Impossible,” and the rafters rang.
Then came a powerful message to the graduating class, a stirring lesson about transition times and fearing the Lord. About seeking Him, not leaning on one’s own understanding, and that He would make the paths straight.
Listening, this not-graduate found herself caught up in the doctor’s words. It was during a time of trial, he said, that he found himself wondering if the Lord really knew what was happening. If He’d forgotten, somehow, and left him abandoned. Then, feeling alone one morning in his study, he looked to the sky. And saw, hanging there, the morning star.
In a still, quiet voice, the Lord spoke. “Jesus, the bright and morning star, was present yesterday. He is present today, and He will be here tomorrow.” In that moment, he knew without doubt that God did see, He did know, and that He who’d created the morning star could be trusted in trials and transitions.
Graduation. In many ways, it was an ending. All those years of study; of papers and final exams. Days, weeks, months of being stretched to one’s limit and then just a little bit more. That was over now and this, the commencement ceremony we were witnessing, was a grand segue to that which came next.
Oh, it is good for us to mark the momentous. To celebrate achievement. To gather with solemnity, with joy and with pride to note our significant milestones. It’s good for us to rejoice.
How appropriate that cheers should arise as the students filed up. How fitting, the shouts of happiness as loved ones took the stage. How inevitable that tears would rise as flesh and blood took his place and received the degree conferred upon him by the president of Bethel College.
To riotous applause, row upon row of students turned their tassels, signifying the “it is finished.” Then, arising once more, they processed back up the aisle, faces beaming upon this, their long-awaited commencement.
Graduation from; an ending. It was also, I thought as I sat there, a graduation to, or a beginning. Off they went, buoyant in black robes, diplomas in hand, striding confidently through the doors this one last time and into the great, wide world. They’d graduated from daily classes and lectures, from projects and tests. But they were graduating to another world; to interviews and jobs and bills and careers. A new era had arrived, and it started just beyond those double doors.
The word they’d received between the “from” and the “to” was a sound one, and wise. It would, if they heeded, see them safely through every transition from here to the end of their days. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight,” Prov. 3:5-6.
Like a beacon, it shines, the truth in these words. Not for graduates alone, but for the rest of us, too. For all who may find themselves in unsettling transitions with a future uncertain and a path that’s unclear. For those who have graduated from one season to another. For those square at an ending who look for beginnings, they, too, can take heart from this truth.
If we trust in the Lord with all of our hearts, not leaning on our own understanding, and if we acknowledge Him in all of our ways, then He will make our paths straight. For Jesus, the bright and morning star who was there in the past, is present today, and He’ll be present in all our tomorrows.
This sure and certain knowledge is the rock we can stand on. In all that life brings, in its seasons and changes, we are never abandoned. We’re not forgotten or hopeless. There’s a way out, a way through, a way up and beyond. There is, when we trust and obey.
And that’s how we transition in peace; how we find comfort in our own times of trial. This is how we “graduate from” our own endings and “graduate to” fresh beginnings.
Rhonda Schrock offers heartfelt congratulations to the Class of 2013 and to one graduate in particular—College Kid. Who shall henceforth be known as College Grad now that he’s turned his tassel.