It was a month before I was to graduate from college and I found myself in the office of my university’s president. Sitting on the other side of his massive desk along with a male classmate, we were asked to give that year’s graduation speech. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you I was scared to death at the thought of standing in front of my peers, professors, family and the rest of the normal graduation attendees to share my thoughts about the past 4 years and my hopes for the years to come. As I listened to him talk about his vision for that morning, all I could think was: My dad may be a pastor, but I think God skipped me when he was dishing out the public speaking gene. I had grown accustomed to that saying over the years.
But, in an act of boldness (or, let’s face it, stupidity) I said yes.
I was going to share words of truth and inspiration for everyone in attendance to hear?
The morning of May 15, 2010, I was introduced and walked up to the podium in my cap & gown. In that moment, all eyes were on me as I spoke these words:
“I’m sure when all of us set foot on this campus roughly 4 years ago, we briefly
thought about how our college experience would go. Visions of all night study
sessions, Ultimate Frisbee on the lawn, weekly chapel, and making new friends
flooded our minds making us fearful, excited, and nervous all at the same time. For
some of us, all of those things did in fact happen, but one thing is for sure: all of us
have experienced so much more than we could have ever imagined during our time
here at SNU. Sure, we learned valuable lessons inside the classroom, but for me, the
most important experiences I’ve had throughout my four years at this university
happened outside of the classroom walls.
I was one of those individuals who had thought through what my time here at SNU was going to be like, and was sure of how things were going to pan out. I was going to make great friends with fellow students, never deal with conflict, listen to lectures that only would
reinforce the thoughts and ideas I already had formed, have a perfect 4.0 GPA, and avoid any real pain by having a well thought out and detailed plan for my life. It didn’t take long for me to realize that those plans I had for my life were not going to happen. I overlooked a few things: I didn’t factor in other people and their decisions, and most importantly, I underestimated the power of God. My plan soon got off track from what I wanted. Accounting ruined my hopes of that perfect GPA, I heard lectures that challenged me to think more critically about life, and I suddenly was forced to make important life decisions on my own.
Panic soon set in.
As a child, I was a daredevil. I would climb any tree, talk to anyone who would
give me their attention, and jump from any height – and I mean ANY height – onto
my trampoline with my brother (sorry mom). But as I’ve grown a little older and learned
more about life, that fearless attitude is a little harder to come by. When we were
young, we didn’t have to have plan for our life, that was the responsibility of our
parents. Now, as all of us have grown up a bit, the decisions we have to make are
different and seem to carry more weight than simply choosing which ice cream flavor
we want after our tee-ball game . . . I often wish I could go back to those days.
While at college, I’ve been exposed to the severe hurt that exists in this world,
and have come to a deeper realization that my life here on the earth is finite. These
two realizations, while difficult to ponder, have made a profound impact on my life
and the choices I’ve made. They have taught me the importance of taking risks, and
to truly live my life for something that will outlast it.
During the first semester of my sophomore year, I read the quote,”if we are
afraid of the future, afraid of change, then we miss out on what God has called us to
do.” It made an impression on me, and I decided to pursue something outside of
my comfort zone. The next thing I know, I’m on a 12 hour flight from Los Angeles headed towards Auckland, New Zealand for a 2 1/2 month mission trip for the
summer. I had never been out of the country before and I was unsure of how I was
going to pay for the trip.
I took a risk. And it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Nothing I had imagined prior to leaving the country came close to what I experienced during that wonderful summer. From hiking through some of God’s most
beautiful creation, to ministering to the local Maori youth at Te Ora Hou, my whole
perspective started to transform. For so long, I had been seeing the world through a
tiny pin hole, and after one summer, that view was stretched, altered, and forever
changed as I saw God at work in the global Church. I learned that you can
never “out-imagine” God no matter how hard you try.
For me, taking a risk and changing my outlook meant going on a life-changing
mission trip, and I’m positive there will be more leaps of faith I take. As each of you
venture out into the world after this morning, your important decisions may take on a different form. You might buy or sell in the stock exchange, set aside your career
later in life to be a stay at home mom or dad, travel to a developing state in the
Global South to administer medical care, or simply strike up a conversation with a
familiar face at a local coffee shop. No matter how big or small they might seem,
each choice can be difficult in their own way, but remembering that your life is finite
can be the most influential tool for following your heart and making those bold
decisions. It’s when we realize we have nothing to lose, that our greatest moments
Right now, similar feelings that we had our first day on campus have invaded our
minds again as we stare towards a life with either an immediate career search, or
the continuation of our education. While many of us are just as confused about what
to do in life as we were when we started, may our passions and our heart be our
guide through the maze that lies ahead of us. Howard Thurman said it best when he
stated, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
As each of us leave go forth from this pivotal moment in our lives, may we never
forget what each of us have in common: we are all called to serve God and serve
others with a relentless, and selfless love. Congratulations Class of 2010, we did it.
Now as we graduate and begin anew, it’s up to us when and where that love will be
shared, so take a risk, and let your passions provide an avenue for you to love
others deeply. “
My very own words seem to still be teaching me today . . .
Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly.