Probably one of the hardest things about teaching, for me at least, is saying good bye at the end of a two or three or four year conversation. In a couple of days folders promising diplomas will be placed in eager hands and the end of a journey will be formally recognized with the beginning of the next.
Each student with a story – rich, profound, deep – part of a much larger story in which their’s has its greatest meaning. Stories that are woven with wonder – deep pain, triumphant joys, long intervals when nothing seemed to be happening erupting in the grace at work under the surface the whole time. Many of them weaving in and out of other stories – friends, professors, staff members, room mates… What a wild tapestry of grace!
And each one with a name – called out by the registrar to the cheers of family and friends, some of whom are standing on their feet in sheer amazement and gratitude that this day has finally arrived. What a difference four years can make! Timid, tentative freshmen have become seasoned, confident seniors. And what is more, they have become more fully themselves, shaped by thinking hard and working hard and playing hard with others on a similar journey.
There is about them a bit of melancholy mixed with the celebration. What will become of friendships promised to last forever, but already straining under the pull of different directions? And what of the new friend just met in the last months who seems more likely to last than those who got them through college? And what of leaving the safety of the “bubble” – of having to get a job – of having to pay the bills – of having to really leave home. Or, not. And unsure of which might be hardest.
And what of the Jesus who has, it seems, grown too? The Sunday School Jesus was laid to rest, replaced by a wild-eyed warrior making life shaping demands, striding on through his-story and inviting His friends to join Him in saving the world – His way. By serving it to death.
And to think. This isn’t harvest. Not yet. Still much work to be done, much life to be lived, much glory to be given.This is the beginning. This is to commence.