Senior year is packed full of memories. I remember being so excited to fill my senior book with photos, ticket stubs, autographs, receipts, and absolutely anything that would help me to document any and every moment, each event a rite of passage that I had worked toward since kindergarten. The portraits, the cap and gown, prom, the class ring, all of it. You make wonderful memories with great friends. Spring semester and the following summer are full of goodbyes, full of decisions, and full of reckoning as adolescence ends and adulthood begins. Senior year is special. It is an important process of letting go and moving forward. That is why the current situation is so significant for so many.
The Seniors of class 2020 have had that special year cut short without ever having had those experiences, said those goodbyes, made those decisions, and worked through those emotions. The process was cut short. Everyone expected them to have a few more precious months of celebration before the real work of grown up life began. It’s like the final just became a pop quiz, and not just for them, but for their parents, too. These are special times for Moms and Dads as they accept that their babies are about to leave the nest. Theses rites of passage are an essential part of the paradigm shift that parents and teenagers go through as a young person prepares to become (at least more) independent. Through them we shift our focus away from the present as we honor the past and prepare for the future. For our seniors and their families, the realization that these events have been canceled must be devastating. It must be heartbreaking for parents to watch their children go through such deep disappointment. It’s so incomplete, like a song that ends on a dissonant chord. The ear will always strain to hear the resolution. Our community is stuck in limbo with no end in sight. Our students will complete their year with online courses, but the pursuit has lost some of its excitement. These very moments were meant to be filled with anticipation and celebration. Instead, there is silence, separation, and emptiness. The question becomes: how do we help our seniors fill the void? My prayer is that we can encourage them to turn away from bitterness and disappointment so that they can embrace their circumstances with joy and with new expectation. But how?
The answer: we hype them BIG TIME. It’s time to speak victory and hope over them as they experience a new kind of rite in these unprecedented times. So, Senior class of 2020, I’m proud of you! And, I’m filled with hope and pray excitement for you. Why?
Because, Seniors, you just skipped a grade level in the school of hard knocks. That’s right! You’ve gotten a jump start on one of the hardest lessons you will ever learn as an adult: your plans and God’s plans are just not the same. There are going to be many times in your life when God changes your trajectory. Your best laid plans are going to fall apart. And, it’s hard! The wonderful thing is that God’s plans are always better than our own. Each and every disappointment comes with the promise that we can trust the heart and hand of God in every situation. When things don’t go the way you planned them to, you can bet they there is a good reason and a special purpose behind it all.
I don’t blame you for feeling disappointed right now. Feel it. Shout at the sky that it’s not fair. If you feel lost and incomplete, tell God about it. tell him your sadness and your worry and your fear! He is a kind and caring God who wants you to come to Him. When all is said and done, though, He wants even more for you to trust Him. Grieve your loss.
Then, be still. Give all of your hopes and dreams and expectations over to God and watch as He does more than you could possibly hope or imagine!
Wait with expectation! Open you’re heart and truly listen to what the Lord wants to teach you.
Take heart and cling to the hope that we have knowing that our great, good God has a plan. This is such a unique, poignant experience that you share with one another. It will grow you all in many special ways. Just imagine what God has in store for you!? Surrender what you wanted and wait expectantly for God to do amazing things in you, through you, and around you. Look at those in need and find new purpose in serving the greater good. Turn you focus from inward to outward and encourage those you meet. Begin your journey into adulthood by choosing to be the light to the world around you. Release your desires and cling to God’s purposes, and “the things of Earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”
Congratulations, class of 2020! You’ve taken the first steps into adulthood. Like so many generations before, you’ve been called to make a particular sacrifice at this time. This mantle comes with new responsibilities, as theirs did. Glorify God as you follow the mandates of our leaders so that the sacrifices being made will not be done in vain. Encourage one another and rejoice as you forfeit the experiences you’ve long desired so that others may live free from contagion. Get excited, because God has a special plan for your generation, and it starts here and now. This is your unique rite of passage, and you’ve gotten your diploma in growing up over night. Fill your senior books with these memories! Take screen shots of FaceTime with your bestie. Make different kinds of memories, and remember this time. Yours will be a memory book unlike any other. Most importantly, remember the good that you are witnessing in the world around you as people put aside their wants to meet someone else’s need. Remember the community pulling together in tough times. Remember, too, that you are a huge part of that. I want you to know that your community is cheering you on. We see hope and promise in each of you. And, we are all so proud of you.
“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Eph. 3:20-21)