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.
Please allow me one moment of parental pride. Our daughter, Stephanie, graduated from the University of Virginia this weekend. She “walked the lawn” along with thousands of other students en route to their destination: graduation. It has been her objective for four years. Poof! You are a graduate.
It doesn’t seem real to her. “My friends and I agreed,” she tells me, “we’re prepared to graduate, but we’re not ready to leave.”
She loves her university. Loved it from the start. She engaged, excelled, drank fully of the Wahoo cup. The last semester just couldn’t contain her. So many things she wanted to do, try, be part of, experience, before she left. Alas, every good thing must come to an end. And so it has.
She walked the lawn, found her seat among all her classmates, and sat behind many, many rows of graduate students, professional students, nursing students and others. LeBolt Stephanie Diane, there in the middle of the masses, most of the way to the back. So far back, in fact, that she couldn’t hear the graduation speaker, or the president of the University who stood and spoke the words she had waited four years to hear: “I confer upon you the degree of Bachelor of Arts, and all privileges belonging there in.”
I sat approximately 100 miles away, in the ticketed seats for ‘special guests.’ We saw it all on Jumbo-trons placed strategically along the lawn. I could hear just fine. It was an event. A spectacle. The advancing of a tradition. The pomp and circumstance, regalia and formality were right for the day.
Still, I came to celebrate my little girl. One in the crowd. Incredible blue eyes and the biggest, kindest smile you will ever see. I was glad that the departmental diplomas would be awarded in a small ceremony after the event.
Except we were prevented from entering by a tall, serious man behind blue velvet roping. His stance, frown and hand wave meant No Trespassing. We asked a nearby faculty member (you can pick them out by their colorful graduation gowns) where to get in and she directed us down and around and up 2 flights of stairs. This time we talked our way past Mr. No (from the inside) and were the first parental arrivals in the upper room.
The ceremony was more personal, albeit brief. Just a handful of grads to receive their scrolls and their handshakes. A few hugs and hearty well-wishes later, we are snapping last photos from a window atop the Rotunda looking out onto the lawn where many of the crowd are still gathered below.
We descend the steps and, reluctantly, make our way to the exit. “Thank you for coming,” says Mr. No, now pulling aside the roping so we can depart.
I chuckle at the irony. Four glorious years end with, “Thanks for coming.”
Our small procession, Mom, Dad, shiny new graduate and her 2 sisters, makes its way past the statue of Thomas Jefferson, past the steps of the Rotunda – well, around, because the nursing school grads are gathered on the steps – on the path toward homeward bound. We are ushering her off the premises, pausing for the traffic light at the corner. A police officer punches the walk-request button. We wait.
A baby blue convertible accelerates through the intersection. Its driver, a young Asian woman, waves happily at Steph and shouts, “You look smashing in your gown!” We all laugh as this driver disappears around the corner.
Steph smiles awkwardly, turning to us. “She probably thinks I am someone she knows.”
The Dean knows you Steph! You’re the one who looks smashing in your gown. You’re gonna knock ’em dead! She can tell by looking. Even in drive-by, on her way outta town.
The world says you’re worth more today than you were yesterday. They’re wrong. You had infinite value yesterday, as you do today as you will always. A pearl of great price. Worth selling all that I have to buy back. Smashing, indeed!