“com·mence·ment | kəˈmensmənt | noun a ceremony in which degrees or diplomas are conferred on graduating students.” – New Oxford American Dictionary
Well, it’s finally happened! After twenty-six years of being a dad, after twenty- two years of having daughters in school, after eight years of having daughters in college, they have each completed their compulsory and undergraduate educations! Whew! Congratulations to all the class of 2020, whether graduating from high school or college!
A menagerie of images and memories flood through my mind as I recall countless little moments along the way. Bedtime stories, prayers, and blessings. Dinner table conversations and laughter. Grandparents and cousins, aunts and uncles. First and last days of school. Back to school nights and open houses. Homework assignments and school projects. Summer vacations and camping trips. Creative projects and movie nights. Themed birthday parties and sleepless slumber parties. Music recitals and school plays, soccer and volleyball games, cross country and track meets. Girl drama and boy crushes. Part-time jobs and driver’s education. Christmas traditions and Easter celebrations. Bible classes and worship services. Baptisms and mission trips. Youth group gatherings, weekend retreats, and summer camps. College trips and entrance exams. Roommate selection and dorm decor shopping. Freshman orientation and campus drop-offs. Sorority rushes and international program applications. Decisions about majors and conversations about adulting. Overseas semesters and joyful reunions. RA training and Songfest performances. Capstone projects and senior traditions.
The basic meaning of the word commencement is a beginning or start, and I’m grateful to whomever decided to call the service of graduation a commencement. Of course, by the time a person graduates from college she is well into her early twenties, which is a long way from the beginning of one’s life! Still, the word commencement gestures toward the idea that a long season of preparation, equipping, and learning is reaching its culmination and that a new season is upon the graduate, as well as her family! Commencement signals that new adventures, relationships, jobs (!), and spiritual growth beckon. Life, as an adult, is (perhaps) beginning in earnest!
For our parents with younger ones, I know that the present feels like a long road with no end in sight, especially with the shift of educational responsibilities due to the COVID-19 virus. However, I now join the ranks of those who can tell you from experience, “The days pass slowly but the years go quickly!” To the degree that you are able, treasure each age and life stage, because these tender home years will one day come to an end.
To our graduates and their parents, I say congratulations! We’re mighty proud of you! “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.”