Letter to a recent graduate

Dear Michael,

So now you’re a college grad. Congratulations! I liked the little dance you did right after receiving your diploma. The cameras caught it for the big screen, and we all laughed and didn’t even have to say it: “That’s Michael alright.” You’ve never really just walked your way through life. It’s often been a dance.

It dawns on me that these weeks after graduation may not be filled with dancing. How “suddenly” it all ends. You’ve been a student since preschool, and I know you enjoyed it (most of the time). Now that chapter of your life is over. Some great friendships end here, others will continue and a few will last your lifetime. You mentioned that the job you start in a few weeks isn’t exactly what you wanted, but it was the best you could find. Reality sets in. The afterglow begins to lose its glow.

 We frame the story lines of our lives with headline events: relocations, marriage, births and career moves. Like these weeks right after graduation, though, for the most part we live in transition, in the middle of in between the headlines of our lives. We are like Israel between Egypt and the Promised Land. We are like Jesus, living and loving, healing and teaching on His way to Jerusalem. The apostle Paul was like that too, writing inspired letters on his travels across the Mediterranean world.

What I’m trying to say is that, at least in my life, the real story has often been not in the headline events but in the parade of back stories between them. Life appears to come in waves as suddenly this or suddenly that, but in between are the calms of ordinary, very daily life. Disney World was great, but the fun we had getting there was unforgettable.

I recall that when you were in high school you played George Gibbs in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. Remember that interchange between the state manager and Emily in Act III? Emily relives a day from her childhood. Overwhelmed by the rich depth and beauty of the day, she asks, “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it — every, every minute?” The state manager responds, “The saints and poets, maybe they do some.”

Michael, I know you probably don’t see yourself as a saint or a poet. I remember, though, whispering in your ear on your confirmation day, “Be strong. Take courage. The Lord is at your side.” That’s not just a mandate for the crises of your life. It’s a call to live your faith every day. The first Christians were known as followers of “the Way.” Our faith is a way of life, not an institution; a daily rebirthing, not an aging tradition. It is the way we are.

I know that your generation is not enamored with the church. Many of your peers see us as judgmental, irrelevant and hypocritical. There is a temptation to walk away from the church and create one’s own spirituality. I want you to know that there is room in the church for you, that the church I know and love welcomes everyone, even those who might question us or stretch us. I want you to know that the call to pick up a cross and follow Christ is a daily call. As Snoopy likes to say, “The problem with life is that life is so doggoned daily.” Even Snoopy, though, has been known to dance over little things. May you do the same. May your dance in Christ continue strong and joyous on a very daily basis.