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Pressing On After Graduation

Updated: Apr 23

graduation cap and books on a desk

I didn't want to go to my graduation.

Walking on stage, even for the 60 seconds it takes to receive the folder and smile for a photo, didn't seem like a significant use of a day (plus another half day in rehearsal prior). I'd prefer to go on unnoticed and hidden, to carry out my calling in quiet spaces. They had already sent the degree in the mail, so I didn’t really need anything else, right?

My husband felt differently and confidently responded that, of course we were going, not only to the ceremony but also to the achievement dinner the evening before. So I reluctantly confirmed our attendance and bought the tickets.

Still unconvinced, I sat in the dental chair a couple weeks later, while a friend worked on my teeth. Chatting awkwardly as my mouth was occupied, she shared how important it was for her that her family attend her graduation; she'd hauled all of them across the country to be there, to mark the occasion. They'd been alongside her for this journey and should be there for its finale.

This was a perspective I hadn’t considered and really appreciated.

With graduation weekend now behind us, a sense of gratitude washed over me for having been there.

I reconnected with classmates in person, as much of my study had been online. Listening to their stories, both the challenges and the blessings, comforted and refreshed my heart. As we commemorated the years past, a sense of reflection hung in the air. I thought back to the season I felt the Lord calling me to pursue graduate studies.

We returned from Tanzania after a traumatic incident. We weren't coping well at the time, battling insomnia, flashbacks and hypervigilance. Our mission connected us with a counselor who had experience and insight into the missionary life. There was no doubt we needed guidance and support to navigate these new disruptive symptoms and process what had happened.

This godly woman counseled me through the most difficult years of my life, helping me understand more about myself, my habitual responses, and infused my soul with hope in God’s ongoing work in my life through all the pain and hardship.

I longed to do the same for others.

The skills I've learned have equipped me to be a better, more discerning listener, and to tend to the Lord’s leading in the quiet moments of shared suffering. 

Even though my work right now is in a hospital setting, it is ministry. In his providence, he orchestrates the clients I will see, the situations I will face, and by caring well for others, as the hands and feet of Jesus, it's all for his glory.

Throughout the weekend we were exhorted by faculty to continue in the calling God has given us, to bring him glory and act for the good of others. One encouraged us with the Cree word ahkamêyimok, which means to keep going—or if you've stopped, to get going. The Christian life is one of perseverance and, even as we celebrate this moment completing a course of study, we are reminded by the apostle Paul to, "press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14), created for good works and equipped by his word to complete them.

Though we've completed an academic course of study, it doesn't really feel... complete. The tassel hung on the left of my cap upon entering the gymnasium, but on the right during the recessional. A change has happened, but I'm wearing the same clothes. In this way I’m reminded of the ongoing journey ahead, the need to continue learning and growing in my knowledge, skills and sanctification. 

Returning to Philippians 3, Paul explains it this way, "Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own" (Phil. 3:12). The call to persevere isn't because I've succeeded, but because of what Christ has achieved for me in the gospel. His good work enables me to do good work, his sacrifice compels me to serve, his love paints my vision to view others as his image bearers.

We finish an academic course, but we don't graduate from the pursuit of knowing God and becoming more like him. We await his return when he will “transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Phil. 3:21), and until then we must “​​seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!” (2 Chr. 16:11).



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