Publication: One-to-One, Spring 2006
As we approach this time of year, we look ahead to graduation season for millions of students.
Graduations come in many forms; sometimes from school, and sometimes through other tests in life. They may happen several times in one’s life, even without the cap and gown and applause. These may also prove to be more valuable than the visible diploma on the wall. These “graduations” are life events for which there has been training and preparation, but we may or may not know when to expect the final exam.
Confidence in one’s self alone is a deception. This kind of self-confidence is often handed out along with the diploma at many a modern-day graduation ceremony. But Proverbs 15:33 says, “The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom. And before honor is humility.” In days past, this truth was more understood than it is today. But truth endures, as do the consequences of our attitudes and our actions. How important is it for us to pass along this truth to the emerging generation, and what effects will this have on the world of the future?
THE GLORIOUS CAUSE
June 16, 1775, was a graduation day for George Washington. As he stood before congress to formally accept his new position as Commander of the Continental Army, he was very conscious of his limitations: a modest beginning at home, his little formal education (seven or eight years of schooling), his past warfare experiences (which were mostly disasters), his never having led an army in battle… and so he said:
“I am truly sensible of the high honor done me in this appointment, yet I feel great distress from a consciousness that my abilities and military experience may not be equal to the extensive and important trust. However, as the Congress desire it, I will enter upon the momentous duty, and exert every power I possess in their service and for the support of the glorious Cause.”
For George Washington, the motivator was not “self-confidence” but it was instead the “glorious Cause.” One of history’s great thinkers, G.K. Chesterton, wrote:
“The old humility was a spur that prevented a man from stopping; not a nail in his boot that prevented him from going on. For the old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which will make him stop working altogether. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert—himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt—the Divine Reason.”
What happened to our glorious cause, our divine reason for action? Were they hijacked by the likes of Rousseau, Tolstoy and Shelly? Did they convince us, as they believed, that they were the holders of truth, morality and virtue?
Should we value the thoughts of men who could not dare tell the truth about their own lives, who wallowed in self-pity, whose minds “no mere man” could comprehend, who deserted their children, cheated their friends, leeched off of widows, and who uttered statements such as: “I would leave this life without apprehension if I knew a better man than me.” Or, “Posterity will honor me… because it is my due.” Or, “I rejoice in myself.” Or, “My consolation lies in my self-esteem.” Should we not weigh their doctrines and manifestos against their testimonies? Apparently our universities do not think so.
As Chesterton puts it, “We are on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table. We are in danger of seeing philosophers who doubt the law of gravity as being a mere fancy of their own.” Chesterton, who lived from 1874-1936, was certainly prophetic in this regard.
A GRAND GRADUATION
One of the grandest graduation ceremonies ever held was for two men: Elijah the Tishbite, and Elisha son of Shaphat. For the prophet Elijah, it was a final graduation where God Almighty sent for him with a fiery horse and chariot to bring him up to heaven. It may indeed have been the first ride with heated seats! For Elisha, God gave Elijah’s mantel as a diploma.
Elijah was a man who didn’t mince words. He was a man who had called down fire from heaven—and the Lord answered. Elijah was tough, “a hairy man wearing a leather belt around his waist.” Food, sleep, plush accommodations, and making friends were not high on his list of priorities. Yet we see his compassion in Scripture, as he prayed over the widow’s dead son and the boy was raised again.
The Bible says that Elisha became Elijah’s servant, but from their first meeting until their graduation day, there is nothing said of Elisha or their mentoring relationship. We see that Elijah continues meeting with kings and calling down fire, but where is Elisha? Not once do we hear Elisha interjecting in conversations saying “If I might add…” or “I feel the Lord saying to me…” So where was he? Elisha was right there beside Elijah from the moment he was called—learning, serving and preparing.
No doubt Elijah was training him, teaching him to hear from the Lord, perhaps telling him past testimonies of God’s power. (They might have even shared some laughs when Elijah told him of the Mount Carmel showdown). Then one day, God decided it was time for Elijah to come home, and for Elisha to take his place. When it was done, people recognized the anointing on Elisha; he didn’t have to tell them.
A GRADUATION TESTIMONY
On the night that I write this, I am thinking of a special event coming up tomorrow. There will be graduation ceremony for a young lady who, just three months ago, had come to the end of herself. Though she was 20 years old, she had not yet earned her High School diploma. She was in the bondage of drug addictions. She had two children, but no husband or job. She had no home, no money, no car, and little hope left. She had a family that loved her, but who could not keep her. So what happened?
She entered into a Christian home for women in similar circumstances, where she humbled herself before God, began healing, and learned that the Lord had a beautiful plan for her life. Tomorrow, she leaves the women’s home, having graduated for a glorious cause and people will recognize the change in her life. But that will be just the beginning. Other tests and graduations will follow for her. Here at CSM Publishing, we honor this young lady, and all those like her with the humility and courage to seek healing and press onward and upward for a great and godly cause.
And so, here in springtime, school graduation ceremonies will begin soon. Those who have shown the discipline to study, learn, and achieve the mark should be honored and congratulated. There needs to be a celebration. As it has been said, “We honor what we want more of.” Generally speaking, obtaining a diploma makes entry into the marketplace easier; and increased higher education better ensures our ability to compete in the global economy.
Graduation ceremonies are important, but history will ultimately prove the deservedness of the applause. The question is not what the graduates have learned, but what they will do with what they learned. May humility spur them on and may their cause be glorious!
Scripture Reference: Proverbs 15:33
JONATHAN SIMPSON is a frequent contributing writer to CSM’s Marketplace Exchange.