Graduation ceremonies are a time for pithy quotations. Here are three of my favorites:
“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” – Mark Twain
“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill
“If at first you don’t succeed, do it like your mother told you.” – Author unknown
I especially like that last one. But doing it your way is better no matter what, many commencement speakers say.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life,” the late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, told the 2005 graduating class at Stanford University. “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”
Be your own person, in other words. Blaze your own trail. Break all the rules.
Ironic, since “a graduation ceremony is an event where the commencement speaker tells thousands of students dressed in identical caps and gowns that ‘individuality’ is the key to success,” humorist Robert Orben once observed.
If you really want to break the rules in our culture of hyper-individualism, surrender your future to the will of another – God’s will, to be specific.
“What is the Lord’s invitation?” International Mission Board (IMB) President Tom Elliff asked a group of recent “graduates” – 59 new missionaries appointed in May to serve around the world. “We read in Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 11, beginning in verse 28, ‘Come to Me, all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.’”
Of the three commands in the passage – come, take and learn – the second one might be the hardest for us, because it involves voluntary submission. For folks unfamiliar with farm life, a yoke is a wooden crosspiece laid over the necks of oxen or other work animals to haul a heavy load. God’s yoke is light, but it is still a yoke, and we must willingly submit to wearing it.
As modern free agents, we like options, choices, negotiating the best deal, haggling for the best salary or price. There is no negotiation with God. He is gentle, but He is Lord. You obey Him or reject Him.
Jesus’ offer is “an invitation to surrender,” Elliff said. “Sometimes we talk about the importance of the fear of God. It doesn’t mean to cower before Him as a slave would cower before a master. What does it mean? It means to have such a big idea of God that you just surrender. … Jesus is saying, ‘Surrender. Give up. My way is best. Just surrender to Me.’”
And it’s not a one-time thing. You must surrender daily to follow Him.
But joy comes in obedience. One of the new missionaries appointed in May, a physician, could barely contain his exuberance.
“When I was in high school, God instilled in me two desires: to preach His Word where it has never been heard and to pursue a career in medicine,” he said. “After many years of training and preparation, now is the time! I’m excited to be ‘His hands,’ bringing physical healing and spreading seeds of the gospel.”
When you surrender to God, others see Jesus in you. They begin to surrender to Him, too. Lives change. Communities change. The world changes.
Graduates, that’s an infinitely better way to live your life than doing it your way.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges is the International Mission Board’s global correspondent.)