Here you are, finally. Did you think this day would never come? I know that you're sitting here with a mixture of excitement, anxiety, and impatience, but bear with me. I only have five things to say. Here goes.
Life is broken, but all is not lost. You know what I mean. Lots of things are screwed up, from oil spills to wars to bad hair to lousy days when you can't even figure out what's wrong or why a blue funk has come over you. You know it wasn't meant to be this way. Sometimes you feel like someone left you standing on a street corner without a full set of instructions. Yes, it's broken, under a kind of curse ever since Adam and Eve decided to eat the fruit. And yet something else is happening. The curse is being undone. Pay attention and you'll see it --- in a smile, in a friend, in someone who does something for you for nothing, nothing at all. If you focus on all the bad, pretty soon you won't be able to see anything else. So focus on what's good, true, and beautiful, and pretty soon that's what you'll naturally be predisposed to see.
Live where you live, not where you think you want to live. In a world of immediate accessibility, when you google anything and anyone, it's easy to want to be somewhere else, to live virtually. But when Jesus walked the streets and hills of Palestine, he didn't wish he was anywhere else. He grew up there. He ate meals there. He fished. He preached. He never went more than 100 miles from his home. So with you. Like the Jews in exile, don't pine for somewhere else, for home, or for the next thing, but settle in and live and love where you are. That may be your college, a town far from home, or it may be right here. Find the beauty of the place where you find yourself. You'll be a lot more content and better able to bless those around you if you do.
Cut the crap. Look around you. Your classmates are the best crap-detectors you have. They know when you're suckin' up to teachers or not being yourself. They know religious talk from true spirituality. There are a lot of people-pleasers in the world and in the church, people who say all the right words because it's expected of them, or because they want to fit in. Don't. The church needs people who will speak the truth in love. You need friends who won't tell you what you want to hear or what they think you want to hear but what you need to hear, who'll call you out if need be. The Bible says "let your yes be yes and your no be no." See that you do.
Have the right passion. You'll meet a lot of people who are passionate about a lot of things: vegetarianism, running, film, music, food, sex, and so on. You name it and you will find a group to advocate it, brand it, and market it. It all goes to show that we were meant to have a passion --- only people will fill it, fill that void, however they can. Ask God to give you a passion for Him. Then ask him to reveal His vision for you. There is something only you can do. So pray hard. Nag God. Be the persistent widow who won't stop until you get what you came for. In all of that begging, wondering, and hoping just remember this: YOU are His passion. Not only does He love you, He likes you --- not the petty you but the you He made in His image, the one He's transforming you into thank God.
Don't be afraid. Fear is paralyzing and often unfounded, and most of what we fear never comes to pass and the things we don't have time to fear may be the things that actually come to pass. You don't know how you'll manage college, life, or love, but He does. The only antidote for fear is faith. Take God at His word. Ask him to increase your faith. Act not on the fear you may feel but on the promises of the God you know. The Bible is replete with people who did the unthinkable and the unlikely, from a quivering Moses who went before the most powerful man in the world to ask that he let his people go to a shepherd boy who went up against a giant to a once cowardly Christ-denier on whom Jesus built his church. If God is with you, nothing can prevail against you.
There's a lot more I could say, but you'll hear all that and more from someone else. Now as you're sitting there, uncomfortable and hot in those robes, with those ridiculous boards on your heads, you're probably thinking when will this old guy shut up. Well, I had to say it. You see, I'm graduating too. Everything I said to you I'm still working on. Some kids are on a five-year plan; I'm on a life plan. Graduation is gradual. Life is a university. And God is a kind headmaster. May He bless you, and me, on our graduation.