I am sitting in section 108 at Arco Arena trying to save two rows of seats for family and friends. It is our son, Jake’s graduation from Elk Grove High School. And it’s a pretty big deal for Jake. He is Valedictorian--number one in his class. He is going to give a speech as well as sing a song and accompany himself on guitar. He has the special colored robe, the cool sashes and stoles, the medals, and a ton of awards. I’m calling this ceremony, “The Jake Show” and I am very pleased for him.
Just three days ago I sat in this same arena for our son, Tim’s graduation from Sacramento State University. Tim took a different route to commencement. Tim was on the “Van Wilder” plan--seven years at the same college. He didn’t sing or give a speech and his gown wasn’t decorated. But it was a big deal too. His mother-in-law wrote me a note: “What an awesome accomplishment, in 7 years, a wedding, baby, house, baby, his own business.... another baby!!!! What an awesome role model he is.” I am very pleased for Tim.
In a couple weeks I’ll be at UCLA, sitting in a similar arena--Pauley Pavilion or Royce Hall--watching as our son, Scott graduates. Scott has worked hard and he’ll have three ceremonies, one being for honor students. As a UCLA alum, I know how difficult that is--I didn’t graduate “Magna cum Laude”. Mine was more like, “Magna cum Laughter.” Graduating with honors is a big deal for Scott and I am very pleased for him.
Then it is off to China where our daughter, Tricia “graduates” from language school. Tricia is a missionary and after two years of teaching English at a university, she has spent the last two years studying Chinese. She’s gearing up to teach English again next semester at a Chinese university. For Tricia there will be no arena, no cap and gown, not even a diploma--just her family showing up to help her move from one unnamed city to another. But this accomplishment is a big deal and I am very pleased for Tricia.
So four kids and four graduations this Spring, wow! If you asked my wife, Lori and me which of our children we’re most pleased with, we would say, “That’s an easy question--it’s a four-way tie!” We think all of them are doing what they should be doing.
I cried when Tim walked into Arco the other day. And I cried yesterday when Jake sang me a preview of the, “I Will Remember You” song he’s performing at his ceremony. I know I will cry at UCLA and I figure I will be crying the entire time in China. Lori and I are very pleased with our kids. They are working hard and walking with God and that’s a big deal--whether they serve in the spotlight or in secret. 3 John 4 puts it best: “I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth.”
Maybe you’re in a season of recognition. Maybe you have the fastest-growing church and you’re giving the speeches and singing the songs and receiving the medals. Good for you! Maybe you are getting the honors and coming up with the most creative ideas and everyone is applauding you--fantastic!
Or maybe you are just plugging away, juggling life and work and ministry and family and no one really knows how hard you are working and how tired you are. Maybe the “laude” isn’t all that “magna” and it’s not flowing your way. Maybe you’re doing what God wants you to do, yet nobody--not even your family--has a real idea of the depths of your sacrifice. I suspect your father in heaven is pretty pleased with you anyway.
Perhaps you’re not graduating. Perhaps you’re sitting in the stands like me, applauding for others, playing a support position. That’s a role that can please God too.
I’m not sure our heavenly Father is all that impressed with pomp and circumstances, fancy robes and earthly awards. They are nice, but do they really make that much of a difference? The prophet Micah said it well: “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”--Micah 6:8
A few days ago Jake sent me a copy of his Valedictorian speech. He wrote, “I realize that no one, myself included, will remember this speech by the time we get to the grad-night party later… I simply hope that everyone in my life knows how much I love and care about them.”
Well said! So keep up the caring folks. Keep up the loving on people--when in the limelight or low light. Maybe you’ll get some nice awards and a little bit of applause, or maybe not. But if we’re serving God and playing the part he made for us, that’s plenty good enough, and worthy of a hearty congratulations!