Graduation is the time of your life when a lot of motivational slogans are thrown around. I want to challenge five that you have heard or will hear, not because they are always entirely wrong, but because they are almost never entirely right.
#1 Keep On Being You! You’re Perfect Just The Way You Are.
No, you’re not. I’m not either. You have issues. If you don’t know that yet, you will learn soon enough. Your teacher in college will give you a C, and you will have earned it. Your boss will write you up, your girlfriend or boyfriend will be rightly upset with you, and your parents will not like every decision you make. No one is perfect but God, and He, too, is well aware of your deficits. Yet He loves you anyway, and the ashes of your life are the very thing that will display the glory of God as He makes you into something beautiful.
Learn to see your frailties and failures with honesty but without shame. Grow. Build your strengths and at least address your weaknesses, but don’t hide the fact that you are imperfect. We all know it already. It’s okay. We aren’t either. And it is in the midst of our weakness that the strength of God is seen most clearly.
#2 You can be anything you want to be.
No, you can’t. You are not limitless in your potential. There are boundaries around your personality, opportunities, and skill set. Einstein once noted that the difference between stupidity and genius is that genius knows its limits. Be a genius. Seek to know and be what God has equipped you to be, because it’s within those boundaries that fullness of life is found. God hasn’t called you to be anything you want to be. He has called you to be what God wants you to be. He will give you the skills and opportunities you need.
Now, don’t settle for the safe middle of life. Push to the edges. Find out what you are capable of doing. Be fearless as you explore the risky and uncomfortable perimeters of the life you have been given, and don’t be afraid to fail. But don’t get so caught up in what you wish you could do that you overlook what you can do.
#3 Be A Leader!
We hear that so much that I want to push back just to be contrarian. I get it – don’t be easily manipulated; don’t blindly follow someone else; don’t settle in with a mediocre crowd. Those are all good reasons to be a leader. I am challenging you today to forget about leading until you learn what it means to follow. Jesus told his disciples that if they wanted to become great, they had to first become a servant of all.
I don’t think Jesus meant, “Just punch the clock as a servant and impatiently put in your time until you finally get the recognition you deserve.” Don’t be a servant just so you can become a leader; be a servant because in so doing you display the heart of Christ for the world. The best leaders I know are the ones who learned how to be content in a life of service, overlooked and unnoticed, knowing that their labor was not in vain in the Lord. It’s in those places that God raises up those who are ready to lead. So learn how to follow and serve.
#4 Don’t Let Good Be The Enemy of Great.
This is often used to remind us that we can settle for mediocrity when we should be shooting for excellence. That’s true, but I think it’s more complicated than that. Don’t let ‘great’ be the enemy of ‘good’ either. Don’t get so caught up in waiting for the perfect job that you turn your nose up at a very ordinary but very good job that can prepare you for the future. Don’t get caught up in waiting for the perfect spouse, or the perfect college, or the perfect church. There are none.
We can get so caught up in holding out for something that meets our every possible expectation that we do nothing. Meanwhile, a lot of good falls into our laps and we fail to see it. Oswald Chambers once wrote, “It is ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things for God – but we do not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life, and holy on the ordinary streets, among ordinary people.”
Ordinary can be great too. Learn how to settle into the good without settling for just the good.
#5 Follow Your Dreams (Believe in Yourself)
Dream your dreams, but follow God’s path. His path may lead you there – but it may not. When that happens, scrap the dream and stay on the path. Proverbs tells us that even though a way can seem right, it can be terribly wrong. The only way you should follow your dreams is if they lead you deeper into discipleship with Christ. Don’t just rely on yourself to find out if that’s what’s happening. Ask your family, your mentors and your trusted friends. Read God’s word; see if what you are dreaming matches the gifts and talents God has given you, and if it brings good to those around you and glory to God.
I believe that Christ in us is the hope of glory; I believe that He who has begun a good work in you will be faithful to complete it; I believe when you are filled with God’s word, lead by God’s Spirit, and surrounded by God’s people, you will see with increasing clarity which dreams come from a God who will equip us to follow them.