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.
The disciples asked Jesus, “Teach us to pray,” but was that what they really wanted? To learn how to pray? Or was their request really, as Jesus knew, for Him to teach them to listen?
What if what we call the “Lord’s prayer” or the “Our Father” isn’t just an outline for how we “should pray” or the format for the “perfect theological prayer” but the kindness of God showing us how to reach Him? And a way to show others how to reach Him?
Recently, I was caught up short when I read a Sports Illustrated piece about Lauren Holiday, one of the members of the World Cup winning US Women’s soccer team. It was called Going Out on Top. She surprised most everyone by announcing her retirement at the age of 27. Why? In this wonderful article by Jeff Kassouf, Holiday explains,
“I’ve been praying about it for a couple years now and really just this last year, it was so clear to me,” she said. “I had so much clarity about it. I knew that I wanted to give my all to the World Cup. I wanted to be able to say that I gave it my all to fulfill the final dream of winning the World Cup and I feel like I did that. Even if we wouldn’t have won, I felt very comfortable in my decision. I feel like God had led me to that decision, so I was ready either way.”
So… she prayed for a long time and it was clear she should retire. God showed her this when she listened to God in prayer.
Can you imagine listening to God in the midst of the physical, mental and emotional grind of World Cup preparation? Amid all of the media, the teammates, the fans, and the coaches all yelling, to listen deeply? I imagine there were many voices, including the one tempting comfort, “You’re retiring soon, don’t worry about it. Just take it easy.”
That’s not the voice Lauren heard when she listened, or at least not the one she chose to follow. She heard, “Play for My Glory and all will be well.” True, they won, and the world thinks all is well. But for Lauren, playing was Glory: the outcome she had given to God. Her decision for a life course did not rest on winning or losing. Ironically, having the decision made probably boosted her to play her very best.
Holiday’s story, and her wonderful sharing of the truth without agenda or podium, leaves me speechless — and listening, for myself and for my children. If they were faced, as they will be, with BIG decisions, life-changing moments, and huge round-abouts, would they choose prayer?
Have I done more than instilled in them the words of the Lord’s prayer?
Have I helped them listen under the words?
Have I shown them the calm in the silence after the question?
Have I encouraged them to trust in the voice that speaks in that silence?
Have I been Christ to them?
How powerful is that on-going conversation with God about how to lead life. He doesn’t ask that we trust and obey, only that we listen and pray. That’s how we will come to trust the Voice that speaks completely for our good. That is not just the voice of reason but the Voice of Life itself.
Oh Loving God, how kind you are to give us more than we ask, by offering all that we need.