Nearly four years ago, in August 2013, we were on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University dropping off Ben and all his earthy possessions (minus a few old baseballs, video games and other assorted “treasures” still in our basement). We unloaded his belongings into a Chapman Hall first floor dorm room on a hot Friday evening. Sometime during that weekend, University President, Dr. John Bowling, told a room full of parents of freshmen that the next four years would pass in a blink of an eye and that we would gather in May, 2017 for graduation. At the moment, I thought it was college president speak for “time flies unless you don’t pay your tuition then time comes to a screeching halt and your scholar will be flipping burgers at Cheeseburgers-R-Us for the rest of his or her life.” But it wasn’t hyperbole. The last four years have flown by and on Saturday morning I will join the throng of misty eyed parents, grandparents, and loved ones in the Betty and Kenneth Hawkins Centennial Chapel on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois as my youngest cherub walks across the stage and receives his college diploma.
A few weeks ago, Dr. Bowling’s assistant, Marjorie Vinson, contacted me to inquire if I would offer the benediction at the commencement ceremony. I am so incredibly honored to do so. What began four years ago, on that hot August evening will end with my utterance of the final “Amen” on a cool Saturday morning in May.
Not wanting to melt into a blubbering puddle of pride and gratitude, I decided I had better write out the prayer.
Here it is:
Our loving Heavenly Father:
We have been so excited to celebrate with our sons and daughters on this day. We thank you for them and for their achievements of which we are so very proud.
We thank you for Olivet’s faithful administrators, professors, and various personnel and we ask you to bless and keep them and may your light continue to shine upon them.
Lord, beginnings remind us that an ending will one day come. And every ending promises a beginning. Today is such a day.
May these graduates go forth with a passion that inspires us,
May your Word both comfort and challenge them,
May injustice trouble them,
May hope encourage them,
May servanthood define them.
May gratitude constantly be on their lips.
May they get things right from time to time.
And may they laugh when they don’t.
As they leave this remarkable place filled with friends and mentors, having been given knowledge and wisdom and dreams— may they continue to ask the right questions, and may they give much more than they have ever received.
May they always look for the good, never glory in the wrong and trust you continually.
May these graduates on the threshold of so much promise and opportunity never confuse success with fame and wealth, but may they discover that true achievement lies in pleasing you and finding their God honoring places in our world.
May they go in peace. Act justly. Love mercy. Speak truthfully. And walk humbly before you.
May the love that overcomes all obstacles, that heals all wounds, that chases all fears, that brings courage to all who are burdened and heavy laden be found in them and us now and always.
May all of this occur in Jesus’ name,
Parents, Dr. Bowling was right. Time flies. It’s just a blink between sending them off on their first day of kindergarten and praying the benediction at their college commencement. Enjoy each moment with your son or daughter and always keep them before our loving heavenly Father!