I wanted to share portions of the Commencement Address I gave last Saturday for the 8th grade graduates of Kimber Hills Academy. I had the privilege of being their Bible Teacher in 6th and 7th grade...
When I think about the last words I want to leave with you before you go out from this place into our beautiful and brutal world, what comes to mind is a heartbreaking scene in a magical movie I saw recently. This movie has had an impact on my life. Truth can come to us in surprising places and ways, can’t it? I encourage you to always keep your heart open to experience truth when He comes to whisper in your ear. Remember truth is a person, and his name is Jesus! In this movie, a sweet and happy little girl’s world is totally rocked when she loses her beloved mother. As her mother is dying, her last words to her precious daughter include this simple but powerful phrase: “Have courage and be kind.”
Have courage and be kind. Now there’s a phrase for your Instagram bio or your snapchat story. If you take these words to heart, and let them shape your decisions, your life will impact the world! I just know it.
First, have courage.
I discovered a little gem tucked away in Deuteronomy 31:6,8
6 So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”8 Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
Did you notice the same phrases said twice? God so passionately wants His people to understand the reality of his presence that he repeats himself! There is no reason to be afraid, because God is with you and will never fail or abandon you. WOW! What a powerful promise to let seep into your soul.
You can do hard things. Brave things. You can use your words to bring hope to someone who everyone else is tearing down. You can resist all the drama of high school by marching to the beat of your own drum, no matter what anyone else thinks. You can courageously forgive—which is one of the most difficult and important things you will ever do. And the source of your courage to do hard things is the God of the universe who lives in you by His Spirit!
Your courage comes from embracing the truth that God is with you. HE is WITH you. Not only is he with you, but he goes before you. He is already there before you ever get there. He’s got you. So have courage. Speak up when no one else will. Go against the grain of what everyone else is doing. Resist the urge to let other people tell you who you are or who you should be or what you should do. Have the courage to be yourself.
Secondly, be kind.
1 Corinthians 13 is a chapter in the Bible that is all about love, but I think that often we miss this little nugget in verse 7. “Love is kind.” I don’t hear a lot about kindness, but I really can’t think of anything more important. If you are kind to yourself, to the people closest to you and to strangers, your light will shine so brightly, that people will squint! Kindness will make you feel good and will draw others to you. Your kindness could change someone’s life.
The world is full of meanness, isn’t it? And it can be overwhelming. When you watch the news, sometimes it feels hopeless. But I love what Mr. Rogers used to say, "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world."
The helpers are the kind ones. This is who you are. Instead of focusing on all the pain and heartache and hopelessness in the world, think about how you can role up your sleeves and change the world of the person who is right in front of you with one simple act of kindness. I believe that we are empowered to have courage and to be kind when we are living in the total awareness that we are deeply loved. You must never forget how God loves and delights in you. This security will give you the strength to make courageous and kind choices moment by moment
People will start asking you what you want to be when you grow up, interested in what kind of career you are seeking. What if your answer was simply this for now, I want to be courageous and I want to be kind. That way, whatever you choose to do with your life, the focus will be on the person you are. Because you take your character with you to every place and relationship, to every school, class and career.*
As you go into high school and beyond, these are my words to you:
You are deeply loved and you are chosen. The God of the universe is crazy about you. He is with you. He is FOR you. No. Matter. What. Grab His hand, and follow his lead! Have courage and be kind.
May God’s favor go with you wherever your journey takes you!
Note: Sometimes as adults we need to revisit these life lessons, don’t we? So even if you didn’t just graduate from the 8th grade, I hope these words inspire you!
*This portion inspired by Glennon Melton of momastery.com