It is #graduationseason🎓 and I am feeling aaaaaalllllll of the emotions as I see people celebrating their accomplishments. From the creative graduation cap decorations, to the mother/child double-graduations, to the many obstacles people have had to overcome, this is one of the times of year where good news seems to outweigh the bad news that can quickly inundate a social media feed.
This year was extra special for me, not because I knew anyone graduating, but because on Sunday, May 26, 2019, I had the opportunity to provide the message at Second Baptist Church in Aiken, South Carolina for Graduation Recognition Sunday.
This was a full circle moment for me, because some years ago, I sat in the same pews, at the same church, with the same cap and gown as the kids graduating this year. I was honored and humbled to be invited to speak. The title of my message to the congregation was “Shifting Your Perspective,” and I thought it would be good to share it here too.
I had three basic pieces of advice for the graduates, though I think my message was equally applicable to adults:
#1: Take time to grow your own perspective
I’ve always been amazed that Jesus did not begin his career and ministry until he was 30 years old–even though He knew why He was on earth, God had a clear reason for sending Him to Earth, and others (like his cousin, John the Baptist) also knew why He was on earth. Even with that, Jesus took time to “grow in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52) before entering the ministry. My basic point for the graduates was that, if Jesus took time to do these things before starting His ministry, they should, at minimum, extend themselves the same grace. There’s no need to figure everything out today.
#2: It is okay to shift your perspective, change your mind and try new things
Jesus’s original message to people, upon the start of His ministry, was that there is not one path to God. He basically had come to say, you can have your own version of life, without many of the restrictions and shackles that existed at that time, and still be right with God. People could do this because things were different now that Jesus had come to earth. I told the graduates that things are actually even different for them now, in 2019, because of technology, the internet, and rapid innovation happening in all corners of all professions and fields. I provided two illustrations to drive this point to the graduates.
The first was Oprah Winfrey’s upbringing by her grandmother in rural Mississippi. When Mrs. Winfrey was 4-5 years old, her grandmother told her—“I just hope you get some good white folks when you grow up, who treat you right, treat you nice.” Oprah’s grandmother no doubt loved her, but she could not see the future and the way the world would change. She could only see her granddaughter’s future as a domestic worker. There was no other plausible option.
I also talked about Robert F. Smith, who made headlines earlier this month for paying off the student loans for Morehouse College’s 2019 graduating class. A few years ago, Mr. Smith noted the uniqueness of this particular time in history, stating:
This is the first time in history you can create wealth and not have access to capital. You just need intellectual property. A blogger who has a large audience can create wealth by attracting advertisers.From the Washington Post
My ultimate point to the graduates was that the adults in their lives may not be able to see or understand some of their future plans, even though they probably love them deeply and want what is best for them. I asked that they not get discouraged or frustrated by this, but continue to pursue their goals. I also wanted to encourage them to leverage their place and space in this technology- and innovation- based world, which affords them opportunities that were inconceivable for many people just a few years ago.
#3 Get as close to your purpose as you can
One of the toughest questions I’ve had for myself is the age-old inquiry of “What is my purpose? What am I actually put on earth to do?” And while the answer for many years wasn’t always clear, the closer I got to it the better I felt and the more things continued to make sense. I wanted the graduates to hear from me that, while I struggled for a while to identify my own purpose, each move put me closer to the right orbit.
I shared with the graduates that God often opens doors and opportunities when we are in the vicinity of what He has called us to do.
Jesus even did this with His disciples. We really only know the occupations of five of Jesus’s disciples—Peter, Andrew, James and John were all fishermen and Matthew was a tax collector. Of these, it is clear that Jesus chose people who were near their purpose–they were using their talents and gifts, though maybe in a different/non-traditional way.
Peter, Andrew, James and John were out catching fish, and Jesus’s tweak was to make them fishers of men instead. Experiences with patience, silence for long periods of time, and struggling to keep big fish on the reel prepared them to go out and share Jesus’s revolutionary message with the world with persistence.
Matthew’s work as a tax collector prepared him to write the opening book of the New Testament–the book is well-organized, highly detailed, and full of information that the other books in the four Gospels miss. Who better than an math and money person to do this?
My fundamental point to the graduates was that they can cultivate the right tools and skills for that perfect career opportunity long before it presents itself.
The full video of the service, and my message, can be found at this link. My message start around the 37:50 mark. If you’re so inclined, take a listen and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.