This weekend is the weekend I’ve been waiting on for four years: graduation weekend. A vast majority of my life these last couple years, especially, has been geared towards reaching this weekend. Before I can walk across that stage, though, I had one last ritual to complete: baccalaureate service.
I was honored last week to be asked if I’d like to speak at Joplin High School’s service. My first idea for a topic sprang from another senior year ritual: the senior quote. Now, I had been planning for some time what I wanted my senior quote to be. It had to be funny and clever, something my classmate’s future children would appreciate when they read through their parents’ old yearbooks. I landed on the Greek word “tetelestai” meaning “it is finished” (stolen from John 19:30, which recounts Jesus’ words from the cross). Unfortunately, somewhere along the yearbook editing line, a typo occurred, and an extra “s” was added. I haven’t checked, but as far as I know, “testelestai” is not a Greek word, or a word in any language.
Originally I laughed at this, but as I thought about “tetelestai” from the angle of baccalaureate, I realized that it was a sort of fitting error. The end of high school, while something to be celebrated, is not really the end at all. It’s the beginning of our adult careers, whether that involves jobs, college, etc. It’s really rather terrifying, considering how ill-prepared for “adulting” I am. I don’t know how to file taxes or fix a tire or follow a budget. I can’t even work the defrost for my car windshield! (My current strategy involves pushing random buttons and praying.) Thankfully, God has a plan for me, and for all of us.
I didn’t become fully aware of how His plan has been at work in my life until the last few months, looking back at my past. My story begins in Joplin, Missouri, at Ozark Christian College, where my parents fell in love and married. Fast forward a little bit and I’m growing up with two sisters in southern California, where my dad works as a pastor. We were home-schooled until the start of my eighth grade year, when my parents decided it was time to put me back in public school. In a shocking action completely unlike myself, I agreed to this sudden unforeseen change of plans. We found out that the local junior high began classes the next day and, after a whirlwind of enrolling and buying the necessary supplies, I began at Rio Norte Junior High on the second day that year. As you would expect from a stereotypical home-schooled kid who was suddenly forced into an environment as alien as public school, I was terrified and shy all year, sitting on the same bench during lunch everyday to read (except for the two days a year it rained in SoCal, during which I moved one bench to the left under a protective awning).
After I survived eighth grade, my parents broke the news to my sisters and I that we would be moving to Joplin, Missouri, where they had accepted the job of Residence Director (or “dorm parents”) at Ozark Christian College. They actually broke this news to us at McDonald’s, because there was someone looking at our house at that time to consider purchasing it so we could move. It was a crazy day. This news also meant that, on top of starting over again at a new school where I didn’t know anyone, I also started a new life living in an apartment attached to a guys’ dorm, which was and is a level of weird that’s still hard to comprehend at times.
Fast forward to the summer before my junior year, when I signed up on a trip with CIY Move with a youth group full of people I didn’t know to a place I had never been to. That awkward week led me to hear about CIY Engage and actually go on a mission trip to Northern Ireland the following January on a plane full of people I didn’t know to a country I had never been to. (Seeing the theme of my life yet?) Those 16 or so days in N. Ireland helped me make the decision to study Intercultural Studies at Ozark Christian College, where I will be attending next semester.
All that long and boring story to make one simple point: God’s plan is at work, even if we don’t see it. At this stage in life, I’m preparing to start the next chapter of “adulting”, but it’s still true for whatever new trials each individual may be facing, as I’ve been able to see in my own life. We can make it through obstacles in life, saying with each of them a small “Tetelestai – it is finished”, only because of Jesus’ great “Tetelestai” from the cross. Because He ultimately finished it in our place, we can move on with confidence in His faithfulness.