Oh, The Places You’ll Go: Wisdom For Graduates
Think about your bedroom for a moment as you read the next few lines.
Is it coming into focus? Now close your eyes and take a Polaroid of that place, that place you have called home for so many years.
For millions of you across the country, this very bedroom will be condensed and subsequently packed into boxes for the journey to a college or university.
And since I’m on the subject of packing, where’s your Bible right now?
Is it in your book bag or on the nightstand? Or is it on a nearby bookshelf? Aside from the Good Book, what other titles occupy the space? Are there any by Dr. Seuss that you received as a child? Perhaps The Cat in the Hat or Green Eggs and Ham or The Foot Book?
What about Oh, the Places You’ll Go?
If you don’t own this book yet, there’s a good chance that you may receive it as a graduation gift from your parents or a friend. If you already own it, this title makes for a good pairing with the book of Proverbs, authored by the ancient King Solomon.
Proverbs is full of practical wisdom, much like the books written by Dr. Seuss. Furthermore, these books reveal to us how to navigate life by making informed, wise decisions.
In fact, graduation is an ideal time to revisit Proverbs and Places to look at what wisdom can be unearthed for the many, many decisions that will be made in the forthcoming years, both in college and beyond.
Chart a course, but yield to God’s voice.
A few lines into Places we find these words: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” Numerous decisions will come to light beyond high school, including what college to attend, what classes to take, and what profession to pursue.
To speak personally for a moment, I don’t believe there’s necessarily a wrong answer when it comes to what career to pursue. I suggest following your heart based on your interests and skills and talents.
While following your heart is important, yielding to what God says is more important. In Proverbs 19:21, Solomon shares this thought: “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
What is the Lord’s purpose exactly? Many people find that God speaks purpose over their lives from a career standpoint, i.e. being called to be a pastor, a teacher, or a physician. My sister and my wife both knew what they wanted to do at a young age – and they are doing it now. For others, like me, the Lord’s purpose isn’t found so much in career as it is in doing His will.
And what is His will, you ask? This is the interpretation I hold fast to: to know Him more (through prayer and reading the Scriptures) and to make Him known (by serving others as Jesus did).
You will stumble, but God will stay faithful.
Life beyond high school is full of wonder and possibility, but hardships abound too. Let’s return to Places again and study this passage: “I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you.”
I’ll go a step further than Dr. Seuss and say that Bang-ups and Hang-ups will happen.
I experienced the rejection of a girl that I liked during college; I dealt with the emotional trauma of my parents’ divorce; and I was laid off from my first job following graduation from the University of Georgia.
But as I noted moments ago, the Lord is faithful, and He will never stumble or falter. If you recall Proverbs 3:5-6, two verses highly worthy of memorization, Solomon exhorts us to fully trust in the Lord and know that He will direct our paths. And if we allow a good, good Father to illuminate the path by way of His whisper through the Holy Spirit and Holy Word, we know that He will not lead us astray – not once.
If you recall my own hardships that I noted moments ago (rejection, divorce, and a layoff), know this: I have been married for nearly four years now; a pastor friend served as a father to me in the years following the divorce; and I’m currently working for an amazing company that is rooted in my favorite activity – running.
In short, God redeems our hardships.
Success is unlikely to be what you think it will be.
As Places draws to a close, the narrator takes a moment to remark on success, sharing this: “And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3⁄4 percent guaranteed.)”
What is your vision for what success looks like in the years beyond high school, beyond college? Is it defined in terms of dollars, the position at a company (e.g. CEO), or amassing more Instagram followers than Taylor Swift?
Money, position, and popularity are short sided and unfulfilling.
Many Christ followers will become CEOs of both large and small companies in this life. Other Christ followers will become wealthy, and will prayerfully use their money and resources to further God’s kingdom and not their own. And still other Christ followers will take up missionary work and joyfully choose to live in impoverished areas all across the globe – serving the “least of these.”
The rest of us will fill a wide range of professions that need to be filled and maybe take up the role of parenthood in some capacity.
What does success look like in your eyes? How will God shape it?
Maybe it’s less about what you do and more about who you become.
Consider the words of Paul in Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Numerous truths can be unpacked from this verse, but it’s suffice to say that the Creator has set forth a vision for our lives and has equipped us to complete it – no matter how great or small.
Ready yourself for the places that live beyond the walls of high school. Oh, the Places You’ll Go speaks of paths that can be taken, and Proverbs 16:3 affirms this: “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans.”
God will reveal the way, and He will reshape you in the process – if you are willing. Commencement is drawing near – the end of one journey and the start of another.
Well done, friends. Keep it up.
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