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I have shared these three brief reminders with our high school graduates in recent years.  They may similarly provide reassurance and comfort to anyone of any age who may be going through transitions in life, hardships, doubts, loneliness, or fears.

Always remember….

You are loved.  God created you in His very own image.  He loves you immeasurably; so much that He allowed His Son to die for you so that you could be saved from sin and live with Him eternally.  You are precious to Him. He loves you unconditionally, not based on what you do or don’t do, but because of who He is and because of who you are as His child.  It is impossible for God to love you any more or any less than He does this very minute.  You may disappoint Him, but you can never do anything that will cause God to stop loving you.  I know that you are going to do some great things in your life and that you will accomplish much.  I also know that you are going to make some mistakes, a lot of little bitty goofy ones, and probably a few major ones if you’re like everyone else.  But, because of God’s love for us and the grace and forgiveness that He offers us through Jesus Christ, we don’t have to be burdened by, shackled by, or defined by our mistakes.  Don’t ever let anything in this life convince you that God doesn’t love you anymore.  That’s a lie from Satan intended to fill your heart with fear and doubt.  You are loved!  Always!

You are never alone.  God has promised, “I will never leave you, nor will I ever forsake you.”  Jesus said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  Scripture affirms that “you are a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own.”  Where you go, God goes.  Your trust in His abiding presence will free you to live life to the full.  It will free you from the fear of failure and rejection.  It frees you to aim high and take chances.  It frees you to be unconventional and think outside the box.  Hope frees you to be a risk-taker.  Don’t be shaped, formed, and molded by the expectations of the world around you.  Have the confidence to live your life the way that God wants you to live it.  You are never alone!  Never!

God will always welcome you home.  Life’s challenges, hardships, and disappointments in the years ahead will take some of you, if not all of you to some degree, on a path that may lead you away from where God wants you to be and where you know you need to be.  You may find yourself away from a close relationship with Jesus and a close relationship with His church. Never forget that God will always welcome you home.  There is no spiritual country that is too far away and no sin that is too deep and dark for God not to run to meet you and welcome you back into His arms.  Satan will try to get inside your head and tell you, “You can’t go home. You’ve wandered too far away.  There’s no path back from where you are.”  Satan’s a liar; don’t listen to him.  God will always welcome you home!  Always!

“The Lord bless you, and keep you.  The Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you.  The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)

“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.” (Robert Orben)

I’m grateful that the Pyles household has two graduates this spring who are truly unique individuals.

Hannah recently received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Oklahoma Christian University.  She will take the NCLEX later this month and begin her career as a registered nurse.  She has a full-time position waiting for her at the hospital in Oklahoma City where she has worked as an advanced nurse tech for the last nine months while completing her degree.  It would be impossible for me to fully express how proud we are of the young woman Hannah has become, the level of hard work, tenacity, and responsibility that she has exhibited in balancing school and work, and the path that she has chosen for her life.

Coleman is “aging out” of the special education program at Union High School this year and will officially be graduating next week.  While we chose not to put him through the rigors, stress, and crowds of the graduation ceremony, we were thrilled that he was included in Senior Honor Night activities at our home church last Sunday evening.  I think he sensed the significance of the occasion, and he seemed to genuinely enjoy the inclusion and interaction with others.  We remain immensely blessed by a large village of friends and church family who love, accept, and embrace Coleman for who he is.

We typically view graduation as an “end,” the closing of a significant chapter in our lives.  Graduation ceremonies serve as an exclamation point to years of academic effort and hard work and sort of tie a bow on a package that has now been completely wrapped up.  But, graduation ceremonies are also referred to as “commencement exercises.”  By definition, commencement is “a beginning, start, opening, launch, onset, initiation, inception, or origin.”  So, graduation is truly a transition, one of life’s segues from “what has been” to “what will be.”

That’s what makes graduation such a joyful time.  It’s so much more than, “It’s finally over!”  It’s about moving on with excitement and expectation into “what’s next.”  This anticipation is also accompanied by a bit of anxiety and uncertainty because it’s a road we have not yet traveled or experienced, and we’re not exactly sure what it’s going to be like.

In celebrating Easter a couple of weeks ago, we were reminded that, because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the victory that He was granted by the Father over the grave, our attitude toward death has been totally reoriented and recalibrated.  Jesus “rendered powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and freed those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives,” (Hebrews 2:14-15).

The fear is gone.  Death isn’t terminal.  Death doesn’t win.  Death is not the end!

Death is the ultimate graduation.  It marks the end of one phase of our existence and serves as a transition to another.  Death is the “commencement” of something better; far better; infinitely and eternally better!

Understandably, there is a level of anxiety about death simply because we haven’t passed that way before, and we have some questions about the particulars of our eternal state. But, there is no fear; only joyful expectation.

Keep living in preparation for your last, greatest graduation.

The class reunion is going to be incredible!

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