[As appeared in The Pioneer newspaper in May 2022]
“Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love; the fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.”
“When we asunder part, it gives us inward pain; but we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again.”
[“Blest Be the Tie That Binds.” Stanzas 1 and 4. The United Methodist Hymnal #557. Text: John Fawcett, 1740-1817. Music: Johann G. Nageli, 1768-1836; arr. by Lowell Mason, 1792-1872.]
“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:11-13 (NLT)
Let me begin by saying, “Congratulations to all graduates!” It is hard to believe how fast the school year has flown by! My wife and I only have 1 child in college now, the other 3 are out and on “their own.” I often ask myself, “How did that happen? I don’t feel any older!” Ok, so, yes, I look it… Anyway, I digress…
Dear graduates, you may be leaving behind the rigors of academia, whatever setting that may have been, but all that you have experienced during those years, has become a part of you. The people you have interacted with have left indelible marks on your psyche—you are not the same person you were when you first stepped into the halls of the school from which you are moving on. This fact is neither a good or bad thing, it is just the way it is.
I really didn’t want to simply spout the “usual platitudes” or well wishes, but wanted to remind all graduates that there is something to remember: you are never truly alone. Your families, friends, teachers, in fact, the whole community, is behind you and “going with you” wherever you may go next—whether you want them to or not.
Hear these words spoken by the author J. K. Rowling at the Harvard Commencement in 2008, “We touch other people’s lives simply by existing… We do not need magic to transform our world, we carry everything we need inside ourselves already, we have the power to imagine better.” (https://medium.com/the-mission/top-10-graduation-speeches-of-all-time-474c4bc23fa0)
In addition, hear these words from the commencement address given by Conan O’Brien in 2011 at Dartmouth College, “Adult acne lasts longer than you think… and you cannot iron your shirt while wearing it.” Ok, so maybe that is not exactly the main point either he or I wanted to make…
Conan goes on to say, “One’s dream is constantly evolving, rising and falling, changing course… Whatever you think your dream is now, it will probably change, and that’s OK… Work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen.” (https://medium.com/the-mission/top-10-graduation-speeches-of-all-time-474c4bc23fa0)
Whatever path you take, please know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are not simply some “mistake.” Maybe you have heard throughout your life that you were “an accident,” but let me tell you that you are here on this earth for a reason. You are a divine “surprise!” There is only one you—there has never been and never will be another person like you! YOU are a gift! A precious gift that has a divine purpose!
The scripture I quoted from 1 Corinthians is one my favorites, but let me share with you one of my other favorites: Jeremiah 29:11-13, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.’” (NLT)
You are amazing! You have a purpose and you are loved more than you will ever know! You can do incredible things!
God Bless you!
Pastor Chuck Kurfman, Highland Hope United Methodist Church.