WLC Commencement Speech - 2012

"Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'" –Isaiah 31:20 

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

To my classmates—my friends—I am honored that you have chosen me to stand before you, to hear my thoughts once more before we walk through these doors—as students of Wisconsin Lutheran College—for the last time. 

I have been blessed to know a number of you very well. Many of us have shared lots of class time or social time together, and some of us are just acquaintances. But as I look out at each of you, I recognize all of you. We’ve passed through these halls with smiles and ‘hellos.’ We’ve walked with one another to and from classes. We’ve cheered with and for each other at sporting events. WLC has given us a unique opportunity to come to know one another, share our experiences together, learn and grow together—and now we’re on the cusp of branching out.

In this small moment of reflection, I’d like to pose a few questions to you. Where are we now? This one seems pretty obvious. We’re graduating, and what an accomplishment this is! We may have been told by some that we would never make it. Yet we also know many more individuals who have empowered us to reach this point. 

To the faculty and staff of Wisconsin Lutheran College, you have my deepest gratitude. You have guided and challenged all your students, giving us your wisdom and teaching us to grow. Your genuine care for each one of us is apparent in everything that you do, and on behalf of the Class of 2012, I would like to say ‘Thank You. We students would not be seated here without you.

Class of 2012, here is my next question: Where are you from? Take a moment and look at the individuals sitting next to you. A number of us are from right here in southeastern Wisconsin. Many of us aren’t from this area, but still call the Midwest home. And number of us hail from across the country and even from across the world. Wherever you are from—and whomever you have known before coming to WLC—I know that you come from an extraordinary place.

How do I know? Because you are an extraordinary person—God’s extraordinary person. He has given you the care and affection of your parents, guardians, and friends. He has been with you in all your joys—of riding that bike without training wheels, making the cut for a sports team, and finding that date for your first prom. He has also been your sustainer in all your trials—of failing that middle school algebra test, being defeated in the last few seconds of the championship game, and losing your first love.

His love and care for you has guided your footsteps, and through the decisions you have made, God brought you here to WLC. And He brought the person sitting next to you. We have truly been blessed by Him and blessed through each other in our time spent here—together.

Now for the most quoted question we are all bound to hear for the next few weeks: What are your plans for after graduation? Where are you going? 

Yet instead of focusing on that question once again, I would like to ask one final, bigger question: in the pressure to decide on a career path, in finalizing the next set of goals we plan to achieve—what is it that you are truly living for?

What does this mean, to have a meaningful life? We are seeking an end goal or purpose to our lives. If all we have on our minds right now is the preparation for graduate school, the aim to settle into our first long-term job, or the plans to continue hunting until we achieve our ideal income and benefits from a job, I fear that we will begin to lose our outlook on the meaning of life.

I urge you, instead, to seek the will of our God and Father in your life. Our Creator God is confident in His plan for us. He made each of us unique to fulfill his purpose—and what a comfort it is to know that we each have a niche in this life—one that He has chosen for us, and one that only we can fill to the glory of His name. 

Do not succumb to the selfish ways of this world, and do not live in apathy for those around you, as it is so tempting for us to do. 

But be active in your seeking. Devote your attention to learning His will through the Word, and strive for intentionality in your love and care for those around you. Live, and live with purpose.

One of my cousins, someone who has become a very dear friend of mine in these college years, recently reminded me of another of God’s promises in Isaiah 30:21: “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”

My brothers and sisters in Christ, hold fast to His direction. God has given us the tools to go out into this world and live for Him, and He has given us the freedom to make these decisions in our lives.

As we seek to line our wills up with His, God will surely bless us in all the choices that lie ahead as we walk out these doors as new alumni of Wisconsin Lutheran College. So go out and live, and live in joy.

It is my prayer that you take this God-given purpose, this inner light that he has kindled within you, and I pray that it burns brightly in your soul. I pray that wherever you go and whatever you do in life, blaze through the world with the confidence of who you are—and with the confidence of whose you are.

Remember to breathe deeply, pause in the restlessness of daily life, and listen for His voice. 

God will be with you, and God will sustain you.

May 19, 2012

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