My cousin Kaitlyn graduates from college today.
A few other good friends and family members will graduate from either high school or college this month as well. As I reflected on how proud I am of these humans, my pride and love spilled over into a desire to give (unwanted, but we’re going with it) advice. I remember the excitement of graduation day. I also remember thinking, “well, once today is over, what will the rest of my days look like? It’s my choice.” I remember the large neon sign in my soul telling me to find my footing before I was thrown into full-time, no summer months off, you’re responsible for you, super cool adulthood. Thinking about Kaitlyn and others I love, at this milestone in life, a few sentiments (convictions?) came to mind. Some of these I knew well at the time of my college graduation 4 years ago, others I would grow into, painfully but thankfully.
Comparison genuinely is the thief of joy.
We are all human. We are all imperfect. We are all in process. There will always be more to read, more to do, more to achieve. Resist the lie that your life should look like another’s. Fight back the temptation to believe that you aren’t capable enough for a particular task or job or adventure based on another’s success. Even if they never show it, all humans struggle and all humans desire happiness. You are never alone. You have a voice. Your life has a purpose. You have unique passions. Sometimes you’ll be right. Other times you’ll be wrong. The habit of sizing yourself up against another person will only result in either discouragement or pride, neither of which you want to mark your life.
Don’t let fear stop you from dreaming large.
I speak here from personal experience. I lived afraid for many years of my life, even if I didn’t wear it on the outside. These were the thoughts circulating when it came to choices: I’d probably look silly… I’ll mess up and embarrass myself… I could never do it as well as so-and-so… That’s pretty bold so I’ll settle for what I’m comfortable with. The only thing this habit of thought was good for was cultivating a life of Netflix, missed opportunities, and a limping ability to dream boldly.
Figure out what you fear most, get to the root of it, and face it head on. The adventure and abundant life on the other side of fear is pretty remarkable. It might be trying new hobbies or moving across the state or honing a craft or finding a job you love, dream large. If (and when) it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen, but I promise you will look back in 2 years, 5 years, 15 years, and be thankful you made a habit of taking bold steps.
Decide the kind of person you want to be and fight for him/her.
I speak here of character and integrity. For me, my people-pleasing nature caused a gap between self-confidence and my worldview. I look back now and regret not standing up more assuredly for what I believed in. And I don’t only mean your faith. I mean kindness to others, honesty in life and conversation, humility when it comes to another’s humanity, the kind of wife or husband you want to be someday, service to those in need, loyalty to friends and family, emotional boundaries, or healthy conflict resolution. Take a look at your parents and your grandparents. What do you admire about them? How do you desire to be different than they are/were? Decide these things. Seek God about them. The Bible has every answer for every question about every problem that you will ever face. The world will tell you to lessen your standards. Culture will say “it will only be this one time.” Your own sinful self will rationalize and justify sinful habits that seem small, but will inevitably hurt you and those around you.
You will never regret any time or energy spent in the pursuit and love of God.
Up until now, these observations can apply to anyone, no matter their religion. In a small way, I feel like I saved the best for last. No matter where you are with the idea of faith, or however you feel about God, I’d like to tell you something. Here it is… bottom line… The God who created our entire universe, the things we know about and the things we don’t know about, desires a relationship with you. Not only that, He is the perfect Friend. Every ounce of energy spent learning about Him, trusting Him, seeking Him for help is never wasted. On the contrary, spending life this way, in the greatest relationship on this planet, is the only path for happiness, satisfaction, strength, and adventure.
If you know about God, but have yet to seek Him personally in companionship and worship, I strongly (as strongly as I can since we aren’t sitting across from each other and you can’t see the excitement all over my face) challenge you to dive in the deep end. Even if your faith in this invisible God many call Father is weak, keep taking steps toward Him, keep talking about it with others, keep asking Him. Find a version of the Bible that you will enjoy reading. Find a community of people who will inspire, teach, and help you.
Four years out of college, and I truly think this is my greatest word of advice for all those graduating this weekend in 2018:
There is no greater Lord, no wiser Counselor, no gentler Father, no stronger Protector, no better Provider, no mightier Power, and no sweeter Friend than God.
You will grow. You will change. You will learn. You be challenged. You will flourish. Enjoy it.