Today was bright and beautiful in Birmingham. It seemed fitting for the day when our youngest son would graduate from college. We calculated that Josh entered college in the fall of 1998 and Nick graduated in the spring of 2007, making a full decade of having sons in college. And then we figured out that Josh entered Second Baptist Pre-School in Garland, Texas in 1984, meaning that we’ve been paying tuition here or there or somewhere almost non-stop for 23 years. Now our sons have finished grade school, junior high, high school and college. There is more schooling to come but graduate school is different somehow, so today marked a significant milestone for our family. During the two-hour ceremony at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, I had plenty of time to think about what it all meant. That led to a few emotional moments, which were overridden by the fact that I drifted off during the commencement address. I woke up in time to hear the speaker quote these soaring words by Reinhold Niebuhr:
Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in a lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope.
Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love.
Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith.
After all the degrees had been conferred, the president of the university said to the graduates, “We have given you the best that we have. Now go out and multiply it.”
Samford’s motto is “For God, for learning, forever,” which nicely joins the temporal and the eternal. I felt eminently satisfied as the ceremony came to an end. I have attended three college commencement ceremonies in the few years, but there is a certain poignancy to the last one. I felt like saying, “Mission Accomplished,” not the whole mission, just the college part, but it does feel good to see a chapter of your life come to a happy conclusion.