My daughter Jordan graduates this month, and today she shares her thoughts on this time in her life …
Well, graduation is almost here. It’s the day I have been waiting for and working towards for the past 18 years. It is a day in which we all gather to celebrate the end of our limited free education (sorry Mom and Dad) at our commencement ceremony. Little is it known by non-French speakers, but the word commencement comes from the French word ‘commencer,’ which means ‘to begin.’ So, while this commencement ceremony takes place at the end of my high school career, it was essentially named to symbolize the new beginning I am about to have as I spread my wings and fly out of my parent’s nests to explore the ceaselessly interesting world on my own.
Throughout my life, I have had a plethora of new beginnings – each having a different impact on me as a human being. The beginnest beginning is undoubtedly my birth. Once upon a time, 18 long years ago, I came home from the hospital diaper-clad and one hundred percent dependent on others to take care of me. I couldn’t eat on my own; I couldn’t talk on my own; I couldn’t control spitting up that mush that Gerber labeled ‘Mixed Vegetables’ on my own. This impacted me as I learned how to trust, or not trust, others at this very young age. Throughout my childhood, I continued to grow each day; soon, I could crawl, walk, and eventually, but much to my parents dismay, talk. My mom and dad taught me the very basics of God, Jesus and the Christian faith. I couldn’t quite grasp all of the concepts yet, but I definitely believed everything. Faith like a child, right?
In the midst of my development, I was sent to my very first day of kindergarten. My parents dropped me off with a big smile, telling me to be nice, listen to my teachers, have fun, and that they would be back soon. Kindergarten was my first experience in the world of structured education. Students made friends by sharing play-doh, fruit snacks, and, in my case anyway, an occasional kiss on the cheek. I accustomed myself to the initial stages of social development and behavior, which impacted the way I act around others. As I progressed through elementary school, I was taught how to read and write and add fractions and, unfortunately for some of my high school teachers, navigate the ins and outs of Google. Elementary school impacted my mind; I was challenged to learn something new every day, and developed a sense of self-awareness. My knowledge of my faith grew. I could make decisions on my own on how to interpret Bible stories. More importantly, though, I learned how to pray on my own – I figured out that I could talk to God wherever and whenever.
Next came those infamous middle school years. While I may have chosen to block out those three years from my memory, I still have vital impacts on myself from them. Middle school was rough – no one can deny it. For girls, Social circles were created and destroyed over and over and over and over again. Boys spent most of their time waiting for their voice to drop and the appearance of that one first facial hair. I learned how to stress out over tests and deal with teachers who I just didn’t see eye-to-eye with. I cried and yelled, at my parents, at my friends, but I also laughed and I smiled. Middle school tested me over and over again, but guess what? I’m still alive; I conquered it; and I learned from it. I learned not to sweat the small stuff because it doesn’t really matter in the long run – especially because I had Jesus. As a tween, I began to get more involved in church. I went to Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. I also became involved in the youth praise band and learned the importance of worship and alone time with God.
And then I began high school. Oh how these four years full of beginnings have flown by; I began a new grade each year; I began new classes every semester; I began to form new relationships every week; I began to challenge myself to learn something new each day; and I began to grow in myself each moment. High school tested my faith over and over again, but Jesus always came out on top. I have, as an adult, put my full faith and trust in the Lord. Every time something went wrong or life got too overwhelming, I just remembered that He will never lead me astray. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” This verse proved itself repeatedly as I was tested and tried throughout the entirety of high school.
Each of these beginnings has shaped me into who I am today. Beginnings have always created new impacts and will never cease to. Every day is a new beginning, and every single day is an opportunity to create a beginning for someone else. We should all be encouraged to step out of our comfort zones and share God’s unfailing love with others in hopes to create a new beginning of their life with Christ. We all know Jeremiah 29:11 says, “’For I know the plans I have for you’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’” Even God promises us all sorts of beginnings and chapters in our lives. We owe it to Him and the rest of the world to take advantage of them and add members to the Christian family each day.
To wrap this all up, I would like to quote the final stanza of a poem that awkward, metal mouthed, seventh grade me wrote for English class. The poem was titled ‘I am From..’ and went into detail of all of the components of my life and my past that shaped me as a person. I hope that this speaks to each of us as we are about to begin new chapters in our lives, no matter how big or small. “I am from all these things and so much more, but my heart still contains an open door. I can only achieve what I’m willing to try. I am from the ground but I am destined to fly.”