Caps and gowns everywhere! Smiling faces. Proud parents. Adoring Grands and even congratulatory hugs from siblings. It’s a great occasion and we mark it with well-deserved fanfare. Pomp. and. circumstance.
So many graduates! I imagine each of them bouncing on their own personalized trampolines, springing giddily into the air, paying no heed to the creaking complaints of metal springs better suited to children’s play. These celebrants are ready to boing to their next appointment: be it career or college, military or volunteer service, or perhaps just promotion to the next grade or next level school.
Congratulations! Way to go! But, I pray, dear young people, that this day is more than lift-off for you. May it also be deflection point.
Because so much in your world to this point has demanded that you achieve maximum height: jump higher, score better, achieve more, set new records or perform the best aerial trick. Success on that life-trampoline rewards perfect landing and launching from the same spot. No deviation. Simply master the repetitive motion. That’s more tantrum than lift-off.
I pray that on this graduation day you may embrace a little deflection. Accept permission to stop jumping straight up-and-down.
On an Easter evening two millennia ago, the disciples of Jesus experienced a graduation ceremony of their own, but it was no cause for celebration. Jesus had been crucified, died and was buried. Up until then, when Jesus said, Jump; they said, How high? But now, without the one who was their teacher, leader, and counselor, they cowered in fear.
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. ~ (John 20:19-22)
The disciples needed deflection. Following the leader was no longer an option. To stay the course, they needed to chart it themselves. In the peace that only Jesus can bring, their Lord sent them.
Dear Graduates, congratulations on your arrival at this day. From its precipice, look into your distance to notice what calls you, and listen for what draws you. Breathe that in. Let it inspire you. Let it energize you. Allow it to bring you peace. And then, let it deflect you toward a future that has been designed for you. Play that angle. Even the slightest deviation, multiplied by your landing force, will send you into new air space that you have not yet sampled.
Memorize that feeling; it’s called courage. You’re charting new territory. Take your momentum with you and spring for all your worth. Hey, bouncing up and down on your backyard trampoline never had much growth potential anyway. Let the deflection take you — to scary places, challenging places, and into untrod territory that desperately needs new minds to solve old problems.
Go and may the peace of Christ be with you.
You don’t start out the best at anything. The only way to get better is to work at it. Things take practice and patience, trial and error, falling down and getting up. Three years ago this April, I fell and could not get back up. I needed help, which included a repair to the hamstring tendon which had become detached from its site of origin. Sewing and bit of skeletal carpentry would be necessary. (I also began blogging then. You can find that story here.)
Today, the attachment is good as new, but not the hamstring. Oh, it works pretty well. I can run and jump and play without concern. Just every now and then, when I get in just the wrong position, it panics and balls itself up. This is inconvenient and can be a bit embarrassing because there is no inciting event. Nothing startles or irritates. I am just sitting or getting up or kneeling and bingo. Hello says the hamstring and I am at its mercy.
This wouldn’t have surprised anyone back in the days when I hobbled around in a brace. They expected my gimpiness and disability. But now that I am healed, I should be good as new. Well, I am new, but I need to qualify that good. I am the product of repair. I bear the scars, inside and out, of all that life has hurled at me. And that is good. In fact, today I would say that is very, very good.
But oh my, the list. When I go to see a new doctor he wants to know my “history.” Not just of this ailment, but of all the things that have ailed me. What hurts, what has malfunctioned, what’s been repaired, modified, extracted. All that’s ever gone wrong I’m supposed to write on those few puny lines. Oh, if he only knew. Then he would know me.
So, in these days after Easter, I am sitting vicariously with those cowering 11 disciples in the Upper Room. Had I been fortunate enough to be among them in those days, I surely would have been around that table, worrying, lamenting, fearing the worst, right along with them. And suddenly Jesus is among them. They weren’t expecting that, clearly weren’t expecting him. In fact at first they didn’t recognize him. Here’s how John recounts it:
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. ~ John 20:19-22
Once he showed them his hands and side, they “saw” him. I had always thought that Doubting Thomas was the only slow one, but apparently not. They didn’t know it was Jesus, it seems, until He showed them his wounds.
And so I think of my “wounds.” After I die, this is how people will be able to positively identify me. Regardless of the lifeless state of my physical body, people will know me by the dental work I have had done, the thumb tendon I had replaced, the bunionectomy that realigned my right big toe, the scar over my right eye where that girl headed me in the head playing soccer in college, the C-section lines where emerged two of my children, and yes, the stitch marks where they sewed back my damaged hamstring tendon. They will know me by the marks on my hands and feet, the scar on my forehead and the gashes in my butt and belly. They will know me by my wounds, that have been healed. The evidence remains.
How compassionate of the Living Christ to show this to those cowards in the Upper Room. See these? Now you go and live life, battle scars and all. That’s how they’ll know you have lived, just as it is how you know that I live.
When we bolt the doors against fear, we don’t keep hurt out, we lock ourselves in. Thank goodness God broke in to show us the Way out!