How Quickly They Begin: The True Meaning of Commencement
As we move merrily through the month of May, we enter the season of flowers blooming, students graduating, and thoughts of growth. These days are filled with change, and life feels as if it is spinning rapidly into the future, leaving us to marvel at the beauty of it all while considering what was and what will be.
As of this month, I am now the father of not one but two high school graduates. Which is tough to grasp, because it doesn't seem very long ago that they were both little kiddos: learning to walk, learning to ride a bike, watching Bear in the Big Blue House on my lap, or sitting in car seats that had way too many straps which were utterly confusing to an otherwise intelligent man such as myself. Behind these two graduates are three more children that will reach graduation in a blink of an eye. I know how quickly this will go, because I remember the old folks talking about how quickly life speeds by and thinking they were crazy. Don't be fooled, a few years on the other side of 40 is enough to prove to me that the old folks were right
I am a 'words' guy, and ever since I graduated high school in the waning years of the 20th century, I have been intrigued by the fact that graduation is officially called Commencement. Most of us think of graduation as an ending; a final send off after years of hard work. But the title 'commencement' gives a completely different connotation.
Commencement is not an ending - Commencement is a beginning.
As my graduates begin this road to the future, I am reflective, considering what I did right and what I did wrong leading up to this point. Looking back, there were many bright moments: we did family devotions regularly, we made time for fun, made time for learning, and made time for growing. I really believe that they will leave this home knowing that we made our family a priority, made our faith a priority, were committed to pouring in to them, teaching, playing, laughing.
Still, I wish there were more of those moments.
I will always cherish the memories of pushing a stroller, then pushing a swing, then pushing a bicycle. I will always remember times of taking walks, playing dress up or stacking Legos.
I will dearly recall time spent praying with them, reading the Bible with them, reading stories with them, having conversations on any topic, and getting to know them as they grew through each stage of their lives: as a toddler becomes a kiddo becomes an adolescent becomes a high-schooler becomes a young adult.
And as I consider those moments, I can know that this is not an ending. To the contrary, it is just now beginning, just now commencing. Commencement, by definition, is merely the start of all I was preparing them for in the first place. Commencement is the fruit of raising them up not as children, but as future adults. It is a glimmering reward, the championship race for which they have been preparing. Conditioned, practiced and ready, let them now boldly step to the starting blocks, let them take a deep breath and fix their eyes on the finish line.
As each of my children reaches Commencement, the wonderful thing is I get to continue to be a part of their race. Just as it brings a tear to my eye, it also brings a smile to my lips. As Dad, I get to transition from everyday parent to guide, mentor and coach as they make their way through the often maddening maze we call adulthood. I now take on the role of a listening ear and an advisor. The race is long, and I will run beside them when necessary, yet more often I will be there to cheer from the stands as they take on the struggles of life, overcoming each hurdle before them with the knowledge and wisdom they have gained over the years.
They will each begin their own race: they will find their own way, fight their own battles, follow their own calling, and take their own path. And after all the years of training them for this moment, my joy is in watching it all unfold. Let the runners take their marks, and let the race commence.