I’ve been horrible at consistency in blogging during the past months. It’s not that I haven’t had blessings—very much the opposite. Time has been limited however, and recording my blessings for others to read fell to a very low priority. But a huge part of what was taking up my time was school, and I’m extremely excited (and blessed) to say that on June 3rd, 2017, I graduated from high school! It was an amazing day and a milestone in my life that had a huge impact on me.
So many things happened on graduation day, and it will require several sessions of sitting down and writing to record all of it. But one of the most important parts of that day was my speech. I had the honor to be valedictorian for my class and honestly, this speech was the most life-changing one I have ever given. For several weeks, I had struggled with what to talk about. Giving a speech at graduation was a huge deal for me. I didn’t want to just get up and say a few words that had no significant meaning and would later be forgotten. I wanted to say something to be remembered. Most of all, my desire was to glorify God. After much prayer and talking it over with my Mom, I finally decided to speak on what I had learned through my twelve years of school: “a sense of belonging, the power of community, the virtue of courage, and the importance of living for more than myself.”
I spoke well that day. I know it was likely the best speech I have ever given. But it wasn’t the applause, or the approval I received, or even the fact that I gave that speech that mattered to me. In the end, what became most significant was the way God used what I said to deepen my faith in Him.
The entire week before graduation, I was sick in bed with an awful head cold. I was miserable. Worst of all, my speech wasn’t completely prepared, and I didn’t have my normal energy and stamina for memorizing. The pressure mounted as the days wore on and I wasn’t close to being ready. My strength, my ability, my passion, didn’t seem to be enough to help me succeed. Then a few days before June 3rd, I was reading over the words I would speak up on that platform, and they hit me between the eyes.
“I now know I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength, and that I can do nothing without Him. It is tempting for me to look at how far I have come, to see all the classes I’ve completed, the awards I’ve earned, and the skills I’ve learned, and say, “Look what I’ve done!” But if I were to speak the truth, I would look back at the past twelve years and say, “Look what He has done.” He has given this entire class the wisdom, knowledge, and perseverance to get this far, and He will continue to bless us if we live for Him. This is what I want this class to be known for: the class that took every part of their lives and let God use what they did for His glory; the class that was God-made, not self-made; and the class that impacted the world, not because of how much they knew or how great they were, but because of Who they lived for. . .Living for God requires us to belong fully to Him, to live in community, serving others, and to live on the edge of our comfort zones, with a courage that comes from trusting not in our own strength and dwelling not on our own weaknesses, but in keeping our hearts and minds fixed fully on God’s strength and love.”
I realized, as I read those words, that that speech wasn’t about me and how well I could do. It was about the lesson God was teaching me through it. What was I saying to all those people? “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength, and I can do nothing without Him. . .if I spoke the truth, I would say, ‘Look at what He has done.’ He has given us wisdom, knowledge, and perseverance. . .and we can impact the world, not because of what we know or how great we are, but because of Who we live for.”
It was as if the Lord was saying, “Do you really believe this? Are you confident that even when you are weak, and sick, and tired, when you don’t think you can memorize these words or speak to these people—when you don’t feel able, do you believe I can make you strong?”
What could I say to that? “No, Lord, I don’t think that. I’m going to say these word to all those people, and sound like I know them to be true, but deep down inside, I don’t really think You can.” Of course not! Instead, I decided to throw myself on the grace of God and trust not in my ability, but in His strength. I prayed that He would speak through me, and that dozens of people would be impacted, not because of my talent or persuasiveness, but because He would take my words and use them to touch minds and hearts.
Graduation was amazing. It was packed chock-full of blessings. Celebrating with my family and friends afterward filled my heart with joy, and moving that tassel to the left side of my cap brought a wave of happiness so deep that it surprised me! But best of all was the lesson God taught me through the week before graduation, and also on the very day I was speaking, when I was just praying that I could get through my speech without a coughing fit. God blessed me when He taught me that yes, I can do all things through Him. I can’t succeed by myself, but if I am humble and give myself to Him, He will lift me up. He will give me His strength and power. If I speak for Him and truly believe what I say, He will use my words to change me, and to change the world.