If you were driving past the square last Sunday evening you might have seen a video crew. It wasn’t KY3 or KOLR 10, or even Fox News! It was a small group of media students from the HTV (Hillcrest TV) media program here in Springfield, including my two kids. Their task was to film a music video, and they chose Greenfield’s square as their setting. Just to be safe, however, when we were filming a few small segments at the church, I called around so no one would think a bunch of teenagers had invaded and call the police! When it is a finished product I’ll see if I can publish the link so you can see it.
This time of year, young people will be donning caps and gowns to receive diplomas from high school. Their routines will change drastically as there will be no more classes, no more bells. Their assignments won’t be for a grade but for a livelihood as many will find their first-ever paid employment. This week’s article is a gift to the graduates, a kind of keepsake to help you navigate this new territory and the years to come.
Any new venture will have joys and pitfalls. You will meet new people, attempt new skills, and hopefully use some of the knowledge you have gained over recent years! Your life will change drastically as you enter the full-time workplace to begin your own career and household and, in time, your own family. There are many self-help books that can help, such as How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, and Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Effective People, among others. But in case you haven’t heard of my favorite, I’d like to bring you a “synopsis” to whet your interest.
First of all, be sure to know that there is a plan for your life. It may not be what you envisioned, but then again, it might be everything you ever dreamed of. Only God knows what is to come, but one thing you can be sure of, you can count on God to be with you. With these words God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah to the people of Israel, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV). The Israelites had been unfaithful. They had worshiped other gods and had departed from their faith. Even so, and in the midst of terrible persecution and trouble, they received this amazing promise.
Remember when you were little? Perhaps your parents said, just before giving you a spanking, “This is going to hurt me more than it will hurt you.” When you have children, you will realize that it is hard to discipline your own child. It really does hurt, perhaps only emotionally, to punish a child or even spank him. We want to coddle you and make everything perfect and nice. But without discipline, you will ruin your life, and so we spank, or time-out, or send you to your room. The Israelites were definitely in a “time-out” many had been taken captive, Jerusalem was in a shambles, and life was hard for those left behind. Yet God spoke these words of hope and promise through the prophet. In effect, God was saying, this is hurting me more than it is hurting you, but it is for your best.
In times of struggle and disappointment, when you aren’t sure just what is going on, I hope you will read this verse over again: “I know the plans I have for you.” Please remember that there is a plan for your life, a plan for hope, a plan for joy and peace, but that plan includes both hills and valleys, lush plains and desert treks. In those times, can remember Paul’s words to the Romans, “For we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, emphasis mine). Nothing comes into our lives that God cannot use for our good, including our own bad choices. You might not always make the best choices. We all make mistakes, and when you do, don’t ever be afraid to turn back to God for forgiveness, back to the church for restoration, and watch what God will do as he weaves even the worst circumstances back into the beautiful quilt that is called your life. The key is seeking God’s purpose, and that is to become part of God’s family through Jesus Christ, his Son. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10 ESV).
A final note, there will most likely be times when you feel like giving up, and that is a very good idea. I’m not talking about retreating from reality and responsibility, but simply giving up all of your own expectations and frustrations, all of your questions and struggles, and simply turning over your life to One who knows your very frame, your every thought, and who loved you enough to send His only Son to die for you. Winston Churchill once said, “Never give up. Never give up. Never, never, never, never give up.” I disagree in one specific way. I say to you today, graduate or not, always give up. Always, always, always give your life up to God, and you will find a life filled with joy in the midst of sorrow, peace in the midst of turmoil, and hope in the midst of despair. Or, as the writer of Proverbs states, “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track” (Proverbs 3:5,6, The Message). When you place yourself in God’s hands, you can be assured of this very thing: “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31 KJV). This chorus ends: “Teach me, Lord; teach me, Lord, to wait.”
I concur with the Apostle Paul that when you do place your life in God’s hands and trust God to bring you through, “I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6 NASB).
Mary Kay Glunt, Pastor
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church