Bittersweet. That’s how my high school career ended. I didn’t even get to walk at graduation. No cap. No gown. No ceremony. It was just over. A relief – but bittersweet.
This past week reminded me of that as I watched high school seniors from our town receive diplomas and make their memories. Graduation can be one of the happiest moments in life.
In January of my senior year my father’s new job moved our family away from my hometown and all my friends. I transferred from a small town school to a large regional high school.
I did make some friends there, but they were nothing like the ones I left behind. Plus there was just five months before graduation and it was hard to ‘fit in’ at the new larger school.
The curriculum differences between the two schools also caused problems that nearly prevented me from graduating that spring. So, not only did I miss walking at commencement with my hometown friends, I didn’t get to attend any commencement. It just didn’t seem fair!
For many years afterwards I thought that, if there were one thing in my life I could change, I would’ve gone back and completed high school in my hometown. Since I couldn’t do that, I sang the ‘Graduation Blues.’
What I didn’t realize at the time is that it was all part of God’s plan. In fact, I wouldn’t be where I am today or the person I am today without that difficult experience in my life.
“Now hold on just a minute,” you say. “Why do you think that was part of God’s plan?”
Good question. At first I didn’t.
But, as a follower of Jesus Christ, I believe the Bible is true. I believe it is the very words of God. So, by faith, I believed when I read, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Now, with the clarity of hindsight, I’ve learned that “all things” includes both the happy times and sad times. It includes good times and hard times.
Because of my family’s move we attended a new church. The Youth Leader there took me to visit a large Christian university he’d attended and got me interested. A guest speaker at our new church knew the university president personally and wrote a letter of recommendation for me.
The result was a change in my original college plans. I was accepted at that university and sat under some amazing teachers who encouraged me. It was exactly what I needed and confirmed my decision to become a pastor.
I also had some wonderful experiences I would have otherwise missed had I gone elsewhere. Experiences that included a part in a movie about the Spanish Inquisition. (Thank you, Mr. Umbach for encouraging me in drama during high school!)
What is God doing in your life? He is using your experiences, your decisions and other people to encourage you to draw closer to him and follow him so he can bless you.
Maybe you are far from God. To you the Bible says, “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” If you trust in the Lord with all your heart, the Bible says he will direct your path.
Perhaps you made a lot of mistakes when you were younger and it limits your choices now. God, however, can turn your failures into victories if you will let him write his story with the rest of your life. But first you must trust him because he knows how to work all things for good.
Wherever you are in life, no matter your circumstances, you have a choice. You can ‘sing the blues’ when things go wrong or you can live by faith, trust God and sing thank-yous to him.Listen to the Bible; it’s great for your soul!