A few years ago, I was asked to give the commencement address at Providence Academy High School in Plymouth MN. I wanted to support the young people in their individuality, as well as in their following Jesus. This is a short excerpt from what I said those high school seniors.
“Have you ever noticed how people try so hard to stand out and be noticed, and at the same time, they want to belong and fit in?
I think this a reflection of the fact that we are all made in the image and likeness of God. In order to be ourselves, we need to be like God. Jesus told us frequently, “Come follow me.” You could say that we are programmed to imitate somebody, or more accurately, we are programmed to imitate Somebody with a Capital S.
Many of our peers, our friends and neighbors have never had an encounter with Jesus Christ, the God Man. So, they can’t figure out whom to follow. They follow pop stars or sports heroes or political figures, people who all too often have disastrous lives. All the while, these same friends and neighbors of ours go to great lengths to distinguish themselves and demonstrate their uniqueness.
The irony of this pose of independence is that Jesus is the one person we can safely follow, without ending up divorced or in rehab. If we follow Jesus, we’ll stay out of trouble and we won’t lose ourselves or our identity. In fact, we become more ourselves than ever. We can become the best versions of ourselves, by following Jesus. And that is the key to being ready to see God face to face.
If you keep that final end in mind, then your life will make sense to you. The confusing situations you may face; the disappointments you may experience; these will be bearable if you realize that you can follow Jesus through them all. The difficult choices you make, such as where to go to school and what to study, what jobs to take, where to move, whom to marry, how to treat your spouse and your children: all of these decisions will be much easier to make when you make them with reference to that final end of seeing God face to face.”
You can request a pdf of the entire address at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can listen to the live event here. When you are satisfied that this is a great message for the graduate in your life, you can purchase a gift card version of the talk, by going to the Ruth Store, here.