I love graduations. I didn't used to. I hated sitting on the hard bleachers in a hot gym for two hours, or an outside venue that should have been indoors. After all, I was only there for about two-to-four seconds of my loved ones name to be announced and to see them walk across the stage. Then I was done. Can we go home now?
When my oldest son Matthew’s name was announced, and he walked across the stage, all I could hear was the heavens rolling back the clouds, and the host of angels singing the Hallelujah Chorus! He was now a college graduate! My immediate thought was, "I only have Aaron, my youngest son’s graduation to go, then I'm done until another generation of graduates came along! Yay!
But, WAIT! There’s more!
Four years later, I attended Jennifer’s, my new daughter-in-law’s, graduation. I wouldn't have missed it for the world! I again realized I had still my youngest son's graduation on my schedule just a short two years away. Wow, that came and went by faster than I ever dreamed it would. I thought again, is this my last graduation? Nope! One year later I was sitting in the same gymnasium at Harding University, that I had done so the three previous graduations, to watch my youngest son's sweet girlfriend Kara graduate. I knew in my heart she was soon to be my other daughter-in-law. I had to be there. Didn't I? I thought, FINALLY, my last graduation!
But, NOOOOOO! Soon after that graduation in May of 2008 I had finished negotiating a contract accepting a position at my alma mater as an assistant professor of communication, at the same school for which my entire immediate family had graduated, Harding University. The new contract specified what my classes and work schedule would be, and what University activities I would be expected to participate. Right their tucked in my job description was graduation ceremonies, three times per year. Fall, Spring and Summer semester graduations were on that list!
After a graduation or two, with no family members walking across the stage, I had a change of heart. I don't know what changed, the venue, the ceremony, or the participants, but now I loved graduation ceremonies. Perhaps it was that now, I had a different interest in the students walking across the stage. Whereas, before I scarcely heard about what was going on in their daily activities and progress reports from my own kids. Now, I saw the joy, and the accomplishments of those dear students for which I had in my classes. I saw them succeed, and I saw them fail. I saw them be stretched beyond their comfort levels, and I saw budding professional communicators that were destined to perform great things in our academic and professional disciplines. I also saw them grow into wonderful young adults that exuded the fragrance of Christ. Did I shed a tear? No. Well, maybe. Ok, yes, I did! Every. Single. Time! Did I yell and scream as their name was called? You betcha I did!
After I had announced my retirement to my department chair and word filtered to the academic provost, who was also a personal friend of mine, I got an email from the graduation committee asking that I word the closing prayer for the upcoming Spring semester graduation ceremonies. I was overwhelmed with the thought that as a way to myself exit this graduation ritual, brought on by my retirement and plan to move out of the area, I had had the unique opportunity to end it all in prayer. It was as much for me and my retirement as it was for my students. Here was my prayer:
MY PRAYER FOR MY GRADUATES:
Dear Heavenly Father and God,
Thank you for such a wonderful time as endings… and new beginnings.
We ask you to walk with us, hold our hands, hold our hearts, as we are about to embark into your world… Help us to be the light of the world.
We ask that you help us all to walk in your wisdom and grace.
We pray for spiritual eyes and discernment in all things. Help us to see YOU in all things.
Help us to be wise leaders and influencers in this generation, not conformed to the world, but transformed by your power.
We ask that you would equip us with all that we need to make a difference for your purposes.
Help us to live as salt and light in a dark world that so desperately needs to know your truth.
We ask for your power to help us to walk continually in honesty and integrity. Build within us deep Godliness, and goodness, that we would be more concerned about our character than our reputation.
We pray that we would seek to bring honor to YOU throughout our lives, that we would have a vision and heart for your world.
Extend our boundaries and give us all incredible influence with people and nations.
Make our hearts and spirits open to every plan and purpose you have for us, and enable us to be willing to boldly go wherever You call us to be in this world!
Help us to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with you, our God.
In the name of Jesus, AMEN!
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