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Published on June 13th, 2017 | by Rachel Joy Watson

To The Graduates





If asked to write a letter to my eighteen-year-old self, it would look something like this…

Be faithful in the small ways.
Take out the trash so that someone else doesn’t have to.
Call your mom.
Drink lots of water.
Leave your cell phone in your pocket and make eye-contact
with the person sitting across from you.
Like Brother Lawrence washed dishes to the glory of God,
study with enthusiasm and humility
remembering that education is a privilege
so many will never know.
Take your clothes out of the dryer before they wrinkle.
Don’t ever eat lunch alone. Food should be shared.
Exercise–for the energy and endorphins–not for a number on the scale. We are more than our bodies.
Pray in the shower. Pray in the car.
Pray for people. Ask them. Then actually do it.
Finish essays before they’re due. Then drive to the nearest body of water—lake, river, or ocean—just to put your feet in the sand for a few minutes.
Heed the words of the Apostle Paul:
“Whatever you do, whether in word or deed…”
“Whether you eat or you drink…
do all to the glory of God.”
Don’t think that simple faithfulness
like babysitting someone’s kids
so they can go on a date
or arriving early to church
to make coffee
is less important.
Paul told the Thessalonians;
to “live quietly” and “work with [their] hands.”
And Solomon, wise Solomon, who saw “everything under the sun”
realized that, sometimes, the most faithful
thing we can do
in this life
is “to be joyful and to do good as long as [we] live.”

Do hard things.
Play your song at the open mic night.
Write that story.
Apply for that job.
Forgive that person
who wounded you so deeply
that your hand still forms a fist
every time someone mentions their name.
Don’t be afraid
of people who are different than you.
They’re the ones who will teach you the most.
Invite them over. Make them dinner,
even if all you have is Kraft Macaroni & Cheese,
and ask them about their life,
why they see the world the way they do,
then listen well.
You can be on the front-lines of every protest against injustice. You can buy the t-shirt.
But without love, remember that we’re just a bunch of clanging symbols.
Take action
that goes beyond a retweet.
Lay your life down
for the gospel
for your friends
for your enemies—and don’t be surprised when this offends.
It’s subversive. It speaks to a need
many don’t want to admit.
Admit it. Then point yourself and everyone you meet
to the cross.
Remember that love shares the gospel.
It isn’t content
to watch people
go on without Christ.
Say with David, in the Psalms:
“Our God is a God of salvation.”
You will sound crazy,
fanciful, ignorant and strange.
Say with Paul, in Galatians:
“If I were still trying to please people,
I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Believe this,
that though your words drop
to the floor and bounce back
like an awkward echo,
to some, those words
will be an “aroma of life.”
To some, your testimony
is the story they’ve been waiting to hear.
Do the very hard work
of speaking the truth of God, unedited,
without apology.
Don’t sanitize the gore
of the cross.
You’ll be tempted to.
I’m tempted to.
But Jesus’ pain went deep
because our sin runs deep.
He was tortured
until He ran out of breath
so that he could say of our sin:
“It is finished.”
So that when he rose from the dead,
every hope that seems
too good to be true
is actually true.

Tell this story.
Do hard things.

Grieve with hope.
I have seen too many students
leave this place, this spot, this kind of stage,
only to be hit in the chest with sudden loss
sadness, or disappointment
and respond to the pain by walking away
from God
the church
and the salvation they need
because the pain didn’t fit
into their definition of love.

Don’t be like them.
Don’t be surprised
as Peter says,
when the “fiery trial” comes.
It will.
And it might knock the wind out of you.
You know. You’ve been there.
There are days when our hope
clouds over like the sky
before a thunderstorm.

Not too long ago, my sky
grew suddenly dark
when a “yes” became a “no”
and broke my family
and my heart.
During those dark days
I learned that fearing God
is the beginning
not only of wisdom, but worship
and, ultimately, comfort.
Because a God less fearsome
wouldn’t have had the power
to handle my pain.
He is the kind of Father
who lets his children
break.
Who broke His Son.
This God is love.
The kind of love
that listens to the cries
we pray from the bathroom floor.
That patiently bears with
our erratic faith.
That does not answer all our questions
but instead, enters our pain
in the person of Christ.
He walked dusty roads.
He went hungry for days.
One of his best friends left him
and turned on him
for a bag of gold coins.
He preached until his voice was hoarse.
He healed until his body was exhausted.

You may not know why
you’re suffering, but you do know
that God gets it 100%
because Jesus lived it.

He
is the kind of love
that will bring us home
at last
and not a second before.
When your sky clouds over
sing with Charles Wesley:
“Hide me, O my Savior, hide,
Till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide;
Oh, receive my soul at last.”

Because after this
“momentary, light affliction” that feels
more like a house caving in,
“we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building
from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
Our every tear will be dried
by Jesus Himself.
And we will no longer find a need
to sigh
because Christ will be ours, in perfection, forever.
Sing this hymn:
“When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin.”
Say with Peter:
“Lord, to whom else would we go?
You have the words that give eternal life.”

Love like God.
Love is from God.
It looks like washing someone else’s dirty feet,
listening to your roommate’s problems at 12 AM,
calling your best friend out when they’re headed in the wrong direction,
because you love them more than you want them to like you,
sharing half of your favorite sandwich,
following through with your word,
and weeping with those who weep
even when you don’t understand
their pain.
Rejoicing with those who rejoice
even when you’re in pain.

Love is from God
and God loves His church,
so you should, too.
The church is not the coolest place.
It’s full of people you wouldn’t choose to hang out with
if you had a choice.
Instead, it’s full of sinners, just like you.
And the Bible says, that though we’re individuals,
together we make one body.
So when going to church
feels like an awkward three-legged race with someone
much shorter or taller than you
that makes sense.
But instead of untangling yourself from that person,
walking away and proclaiming exasperatedly:
“It’s just gonna’ be me and Jesus from now on”
first, remember that you’re not being that original
(everyone tries this at some point)
and second, God tells us that we’re to work
as members of the Body
with patience and love.

And I’ll say this:
When you finally stop fixating on the awkwardness
of the church
you’ll see around you people who would drop everything
to pray for you,
take you out to coffee
and share their own story, for your sake.
The church is full of sinners, yes, but sinners being molded
into the shape of Christ
and they are your family. And there
is a beauty that you
will miss
if you don’t stick around, serve
and let others serve you.

When I wanted the church least
I needed the church most.

Look for those
who love like God.

When it comes to romantic love
look for the man or woman who sits
in the ashes with a hurting friend;
the one who takes correction with humility
because they are serious and passionate
about becoming more like Christ.
Look for the one
who loves the local church; who does not despise
other Christians when they are sick,
rebellious
or slothful
but rather patiently comes alongside them,
never ceasing to work and move
in a way that strengthens the entire Body.

Look for the one who is not self-conscious
when they worship,
who marvels as God’s creation,
who holds money with open hands,
their life plans with open hands,
you with open hands.

Look for the one
you could survive a trial with.
Liking the same music is nice
but it doesn’t hold two people together
when they lose a child,
their home,
or encounter a string of discouragements
back-to-back.
Look for someone who finds their strength
in the love of God
and in the person of Christ.

Be content with manna
The author of Hebrews
says that it is possible
to be content
with what you have
right now, in this moment
“because God has said, I will never ‘leave you’ or ‘forsake you.’”
The thing to remember about manna
is that it was a miracle.
It came from heaven—this perfect food.
But it could not be stored up
or it would rot.
It could not be replicated.
It was God’s recipe.
All the Israelites had to do
was trust that it would arrive
each day, as God had promised.
All they had to do was eat this
miraculous meal with thankfulness.
But as you know from studying the Old Testament,
manna quickly went from being viewed as a gift
to being viewed as a trial.
And we
are no different.
God’s provision is a miracle.
It is perfect.
It is every day.
But it is how we view it
that determines our joy.

I think the greatest lesson I’ve learned so far
in my 30 plus years on earth,
is that contentment makes or breaks a person.
Their future.
Their marriage.
Their career.
Their friendships.

And contentment
can only
be found
in Christ.

This was originally published on joypublished.com.

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About the Author

is currently getting her MLitt. in theology at The University of St. Andrews, teaches high school English, is a published poet ("Blue Tarp," Finishing Line Press) and has written for magazines such as The Gospel Coalition, Cordella and RELEVANT. She loves northern California, hymns, hand-written letters and hot tea.



  • Grace M.

    Loved the simplicity and honesty. Thank you, Rachel! :)

    https://tizziestidbits.wordpress.com

  • Okie Gal

    Yes! I was actually at this commencement, and I still think about your words. Thank you so much for writing and publishing this so I can read them again.

  • Michaela T

    This is excellent! Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

  • This is so beautiful and so good.

  • This is honestly one of the most beautiful blog posts I’ve ever read. I just graduated this past weekend and needed this honest, gorgeous reminder! Thanks for sharing.
    https://createinmeblogger.wordpress.com/

  • I loved this Rachel! Beautifully written and deeply inspirational. Thanks for sharing!
    https://thenarrowroadforteens.wordpress.com/

  • Joy Swen

    Thank you Rachel! This could not have come at a better time!

  • Alyssa Cross

    Fantastic article. Thanks for the encouragement!

  • Anna Kačmaříková

    This is simply AMAZING! Thank you!

  • Julianna

    This is SO good. I love this!!!

  • All Is On Grace

    Really good! Thanks. I actually have not graduated yet. :)

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