“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13)
"One day you’ll wake up in the morning and say to yourself, ‘Graduation’s finally here!’"
Do you remember us talking about that in one of our classes? It probably sounded strange to you at that time; three, four years, can seem like forever when one has just begun his journey in college seminary. Well, that day has arrived. Time flies! In another year, the juniors will be waking up to their own graduation day, and then the sophomores. Freshmen, your time will come too!
You now belong to a long line of young men who have passed through the halls of this seminary and have made it, not without wounds and scars, but hopefully, better, stronger, braver, and ready to face yet another chapter in your lives.
Congratulations! You’ve made it. But this isn’t the end, only another beginning. The memories of your three or four years in this place will linger strongly for a while, then like many other things in life, they will also fade and eventually, everything you’ve gone through, the pleasant and the unpleasant, will be a distant memory.
The seminary isn’t perfect; no place is. But it was, for a good number of years, your home. God is, wherever we find him. And despite the heartaches, there is much that he has done for you in seminary. Leave then with joy and gratitude in your hearts.
As you go, I’d like to share with you the two important things I believe one should take with him as he ends one chapter of his life and transitions to another.
The first is the friendships, the relationships, the connections you’ve made with one another. It’s a blessing to have crossed each other’s paths, even briefly. We really don’t know how much we influence each other’s life.
But nothing in this world will ever change the fact that for a brief moment, you knew each other, cared for each other, fought with one another, hurt one another, and hopefully, grew and matured together because of all that.
It is my sincere hope and prayer, that wherever life takes you, and whatever you become, that you always remember that in the end, it is always people that matter. It is always people that count. And it is our relationships with each other that make us who we are.
I hope that the friendship you’ve shared with each other will spur you on to love people and truly care for them, not just with words, but with your hands, heart, and everything else you’ve got. “Love”, Saint Augustine says, “and do what you will”. That is what we’re all about.
Second, take with you, what was once our constant refrain, and what I believe seminary life as a conformation to Jesus is meant to teach. There is absolutely nothing to fear. God who first inspired you to take that step leading you to this place, will continue to guide you throughout the rest of your journey.
I am grateful to have been given the chance, for these past few years, to hopefully instill that in you.
The world awaits. Life now opens up for you to embrace you and bless with you everything you envision. But only if you look at life straight in the eye, and with courage in your heart, say, “I have nothing to fear. I can do this. I can do everything with Christ who strengthens me”.
That, in the end, sums up what seminary should do for each young man who passes through its hallowed halls.
Be brave then. Jesus is always with you. He will always love you, care for you, and keep you close to his heart. Trust in that always, and there is nothing, absolutely nothing to fear; not sin, not our weakness, not our faults, not our failures.
Close your eyes and take the leap. God will always be there to catch you. Be brave. And always love people. It’s as simple as that.
Go out into the world, either as students beginning your theological formation and preparing yourselves to minister to God’s people one day, or as loving, productive, and generous young men in continuous search for God’s plan in your lives.
And know that you will always have this old seminary professor of yours wishing you well and praying for you.
May our good and loving God keep each one of you close to his heart, always.