Dear Hyde Park Family,
At 4 p.m. on Friday, at the Florida State Fairgrounds, my older daughter Grace will be among roughly 600 graduates of Plant High School, walking across the stage, turning their tassels, and embarking on an exciting new chapter of their lives. This fall, Grace will be attending the Weber Honors College at San Diego State University, a few hours from her mother in California, and near her uncle who lives in San Diego. She will be majoring in history and political science, aiming to someday help shape public policy.
To process the fullness of my emotions in this moment, I decided to write this week’s Midweek Message in the form of this letter to Grace that I shared with her this morning.
Soon after you were born, one of my favorite things to do to comfort you at night was to nestle you against my chest, your little head gently tucked into nook of my neck, as I softly sang one of my favorite hymns:
“This is a day of new beginnings,
time to remember and move on,
time to believe what love is bringing,
laying to rest the pain that’s gone.”
As we approach the moment of your graduation from high school, I cannot help but claim the truth of that hymn for you. It will be one of many “new beginnings” you will experience in your life: some filled with excitement, some born of pain, but each one carrying both anticipation and anxiety about the future.
That’s what makes watershed moments like this so significant. They feel like the finish line, the starting line and a mile marker all at once. Your graduation is the culmination of diligent work and many achievements. It is also the beginning of a bright yet unknown future that is yours to claim. And in the end, it is just one of many milestone moments that will make your life rich and surprising.
So, I join you in feeling all the emotions that this day brings. Your mother, sister, and I are intensely proud of you, for the dedication you brought to your studies, the passion you brought to your leadership in the band and your clubs, the enthusiasm you brought to your work at the Tampa Bay History Center, the devotion you brought to the church youth group, and the joy, laughter, and wit you brought to your family and friends every day.
We are so excited for what this next chapter will bring you. As a college student, you will experience new found, well-deserved independence. You will be able to make many of your own choices, which means dealing with your own consequences. You will discover who you are, and who you are not. You will succeed at times, and sometimes you will fail. You will gain great knowledge, as well as learn the limits of your understanding. You will sometimes come up short, even if you do all the right things. You will confront your fears, and sometimes feel overwhelmed by them. This is all part of maturing into adulthood, and it is as exciting and daunting as it sounds.
But even amid all these changes and challenges, a few things will remain constant. The first is that you will never be alone. In every moment, there will always be a huge cheering section by your side. Your mom, sister, and I will always be your greatest supporters, as will everyone in the family. You know that I am always a phone call or text message away, and I eagerly welcome every chance you have to come home. You have a church that will be praying for you and all your fellow church graduates over the months to come. And you have gathered a solid network of friends that love and care for you.
The other constant, of course, is your faith. God began a good work in you from the moment you were born. Your mother and I claimed it on your behalf at the time of your baptism, and you accepted it for yourself when you were confirmed. You have a much more nuanced faith than I had at your age, able to embrace both faith and reason, mercy and justice, and conviction and doubt in a way that God will use throughout your life. As you stay faithful to your spiritual roots, you will discover God’s fruit born in and through you in ways you cannot imagine.
The last verse of that hymn is about as good a benediction that I could possibly offer to you:
“Christ is alive, and goes before us
to show and share what love can do.
This is a day of new beginnings;
our God is making all things new.”
I could not be prouder of you, Grace. God bless you, each and every day, as God continues to make all things new, in and through you.