Commencement Address 2010
Elizabeth and Zachary Hurt
It is my privilege and honor to be speaking to you today. I’ve only got so many kids and so many opportunities to pontificate. My children are even conspiring against me, lumping two opportunities into one and reducing my number of captured audiences. You can thank them after the ceremony but you will still have to sit through my comments.
Bringing up children is no easy task. To do it well is harder still. This talk is not about ringing my own bell, or for trumpeting the great virtues and abilities of my lovely wife. But having demurred for a second, I do offer you the proof that we have accomplished the task that was set before us. I give you the proof, the fruit of our efforts, Elizabeth and Zachary. I commend them to you as fine examples of Christian virtue and academic excellence. At first hearing, this may seem like self-serving braggadocio. WE must be really smart. Look at our great kids!
And while we are very proud of them, bragging about ourselves is not the point at all. As I have tried to teach the members of our church, acquiring wisdom is something that is expected of all Christians and Christian parents in particular. Getting wisdom is a command from the Lord. Wisdom cries from the streets, “Come in here. I will teach you.” Wisdom is not something out there for the supper smart, the highly educated, the wonderfully advantaged. Wisdom is granted by God to all those who will seek her diligently and having found wisdom, will love her, obeying her ways.
We do have great kids. I am not afraid to say that. As parents, our greatest delight is to see our children, to see them love the Lord, to see them love books, to see them learn wisdom, to watch them grow up, and thus, to receive the fruits of our labors.
Did we expect anything less than this? No, we did not. We have received that which we hoped for. We have been given the desires of our hearts. Having got what we expected, does this make us arrogant, prideful, or even super successful? No, it does not. Remember, we have been given the desires of our heart. Given. It is a gift from God. All that we have, our marriage, our home, our children, our joy, is a gift. And these children, these good children are also a gift. Who would brag about a gift, except to laud the Giver? We did not give ourselves this gift. God gave it to us. So, our task is to thank Him, not bask in the glory of such wonder.
But how does this affect you? What is the purpose of such an address to those who hear these words? Well, wisdom cries out. Can you hear her? Wisdom wants to give you the gift. Will you take her up on it? God has given us the way to joy and to see our children walking in the blessedness of His glory. What will you do?
Please do not misunderstand me. I am not advocating a vending machine approach to God. You don’t just buy wisdom, or bribe God into keeping His promise by doing what is right. He is not obligated to be manipulated by you. Many try that route only to find great frustration in having done everything right, at least in their own minds, only to be forced to eat rotten eggs at the end of the day. How can God’s gift of wisdom be spoiled into something so rancid?
The key is faith, not works. But don’t we have to do what God told us to do in order to receive the rewards that He promised? Well, yes and no. God has made promises to you. He makes covenant with you and with your children, even to a thousand generations. He has also told you to train up your children. He has told you to bring them up in Christian nurture and admonition. So, which is it? Does God bless me because of His promises or because I train my children according to His rule. And I would want to say to you, “Yes” but there is a chicken and an egg.
The chicken came first, we all know that. And God’s Chicken is Faith. Do you believe God’s promises? Yes? How do we know? Well, if you believe Him, then you do what He tells you to do. And, having done so, you receive the promised blessings. So, is the gift then of Works? God forbid you should say such a thing. Works don’t create faith but faith works. This may sound a bit riddle-ish but it really is not that hard. If you really believe God, then you will do what He has told you to do. Granted, you will not do it perfectly but believing God includes confessing and repenting for your shortcomings and sins. He blesses those who do so.
We must believe God when it comes to raising our children. It is the central thing in giving them a Christian education. Do you love God? Do you trust in His promises? Is your home a place where trust, peace and rest are the central identifying qualities? If so, then you are already receiving the gift, the blessing of children, education, wisdom, and joy.
If not, then what is the problem? Do you need more rules? Higher expectations? A better liturgy of the school day? Are you boiling your children in their mother’s milk? Is what they ought to love a dread to them? Or is it a delight? If it is a delight, then you are accomplishing the goal of educating your children in the Lord. If it is not a delight, then you do not need to clamp down with more life straining rules. You must believe God. You must bolster your faith. You must take Him at His promises. As you do this, you will find that the rest and peace necessary to make a house a home begins to flow into or back into your household.
You cannot grasp this gift of faith. It is a gift. It must be given. But our Heavenly Father is not stingy. He gives to those who humbly ask. He gives, pressed down, shaken together, overflowing.
The bottom line in this talk, well preaching (indulge me, I’m a preacher) is that God is good. He is good and He has been very good to us.
Elizabeth and Zachary, your mother and I are very proud of you. You are young but you have accomplished a great deal. Although you are our children, we think of you as a young woman and a young man. It may be awhile before you feel comfortable with those titles, man and woman, but you have shown yourselves worthy of the honor. You have both been diligent, hard-working, self-motivated, honest, godly, cheerful, respectful, kind, gentle, patient, full of love for your God, your parents, your siblings, your church and your friends. You have already shown yourselves steadfast in the faith and I have every reason to believe that you will continue to do so. All of these things are marks of Christian maturity. God has blessed you and in doing so, He has blessed your mother and me.
You have been steady students, loving learning and learning how to learn. You seek knowledge and wisdom, acquire and maintain it. Having got this lesson, you have earned the right to be where you are today.
Where is that? It’s funny. We tend to think of commencements as endings. I suppose a good many people today even think that is what the word means. They think commencement means graduating, moving up, achieving the goal, getting to the finish line. But only a moment’s reflection makes us realize the error. As soon as we see the error, we shall commence to put it right.
Where are you? What right have your accomplishments earned you? The right to commence. You get to commence your education in earnest. You get to commence living like an adult. You commence your journey to your goals. You commence leaving our home, slowly, as you become your own person, in your own skin, on your own terms, under God’s authority. All this hard work has got you to the very wonderful place that we call the starting line. You’ve worked hard. Great! Now you are qualified to begin.
I am thankful that you are here. I have faith in God that at as He has upheld you in the past, passing on the gift of faith in Him, that you will remain ever faithful to Him. Although the world may not be ready for you, you are ready for the world. God bless you both.