Psalm 128: A Commencement Speech
Grace Prep High School
June 8, 2008
6 years ago today, at this time, I was putting on my wedding gown and preparing to marry Ryan Booz.Â By the end of this graduation ceremony, we would have been married. On that day, we were so happy and so excited and SO CLUELESS. Thank the good Lord that He has taught us what our vows mean so that if we were to repeat them today – and we would – weâ€™d know a little more about loving another person in marriage. (Photo of wedding day; photo of clueless faces)
4 years ago at this time, I was working diligently in the Greshâ€™s basement to come up with reasons to convince you to come to a high school with no building, no teachers, no books and no mascot. And it was the â€œno mascotâ€ thing that really stressed us out and we spent significant time brainstorming about what that mascot should be.Â I remember laughing for a half hour, hour at a time as Bob rattled through every animal, color, continent, and mini-mart in effort to find the perfect mascot for you.
One of my favorite candidates was The Grace Prep Hamsters. This was a serious consideration. You might not know how much the Greshâ€™s love hamsters.Â Letâ€™s put it this way: they paid actual, real money for the jaw surgery of a beloved hamster who was misplaced behind a door. To me, this is great love – itâ€™s insane, but it is love. So, running out onto the basketball court as a GP Hamster really would have been an honor.
The other serious contender for the mascot was The Grace Prep Red Heads. At the time, Bob mentioned a glorious vision of enthusiastic fans wearing those puffy red clown wigs to all of the games, banquets, and graduation ceremonies (Andy wear a big red wig and run around audience).
Needless to say, we were all relieved when Bob revealed the final mascot decision. Give it up for The Grace Prep Storm!
As cool as the mascot is, the only thing that convinced me to talk you into coming to Grace Prep was the deep conviction that you would greatly benefit from experiencing â€œa beginningâ€ – something built from the ground, up; from watching God plant an idea in one visionaryâ€™s heart that would require you to be a significant part of its growth. I felt such peace that the building process would be the most valuable part of your education that I shamelessly petitioned you to come to our school that was, as Bob would say, little more than a cool brochure.
Reflecting on these past four years, you probably agree that the building process was invaluable. You are immeasurably enriched by seeing:
the hardships that accompany a ground breaking;
the contagious enthusiasm that surrounds a really good idea,
the diligence that makes coat racks, installs lockers, hangs brighter lights in the sanctuary
the creativity that plans incredible field trips, teaches engaging classes;
the conflict that arises amongst people when they are stressed out;
the peace that arrises from transparency and forgiveness;
and the joy – all of the joy – that accompanies obedience.
So now, four years later, you know what it is like to build something from the ground, up.
The next step is to look for how God will use that in your life.
This afternoon, I have the privilege of speaking to you about the most important thing you will build in your lifetime. Building this thing will require your whole being; to build this you must apply everything youâ€™ve seen, experienced and loved about Grace Prepâ€™s beginning.
This thing that you must begin building is your home. And itâ€™s imperative that you begin building now.
Please know right from the start that the cultural opposition to you building a home and a family is fierce.
The average age of marriage is inching towards 30 years old,
and the number of Christian singles groups increases exponentially,
and the average number of children per family decreases below 2,
people are waiting until their mid-30â€™s, 40â€™s to have their children, so fewer grandparents are living long enough to enjoy their grandchildren.
Culture is shouting, â€œdonâ€™t get married, donâ€™t have kids, pursue your studies, pursue your career, pursue your gardening, your golf swing, your xbox, but DONâ€™T build a home.â€ Because people are increasingly more fearful of love, more resistant to the messiness of relationships, and more eager to leave when things get tough.
Despite these trends, I bring you a message of hope: God intends for us to love, He intends for us to be in the mess of relationships, He intends for us to stay and to make peace when things get tough. He intends for us to build homes and to love our families.Â It is possible to sacrifice some achievements and some experiences in order to build a home. It is possible to look back on your losses without regret. It is possible.
Some of you might not be created to be married. And, to you, my message of hope in a â€œSexy Singlesâ€ society is that it is possible to pursue Godâ€™s holy vision for your life without getting entangled in selfishness and isolation. For we must all live in a way that is continually open to new family members.
Hereâ€™s an inspiring story:
When he was 13 years old, David Brown desired to redeem the time by learning how to build his own home. With his parentsâ€™ support, he made a conscious choice to forgo teenage years of a dating culture, team sports, and entertainment, in exchange for making sacrifices for a woman and a future that would be years away.
So David went about the business of personally studying the building codes, of meeting with the county planning department, and of learning the nuts and bolts of putting together a great architectural plan. He considered the size of his future wifeâ€™s closet, the number of bathrooms necessary for a growing family, and the layout of a home given to hospitality. Today, heâ€™s 16, and his house is almost complete.
Iâ€™m not asking you to take up a hammer necessarily, but I am asking you to do the hard work of diligently laying the foundation of your future home; of intentionally becoming a husband, a wife, or an unmarried man or woman whose home is a joy, comfort, and encouragement. This is one of the most important things anyone can do.
Homes are the building blocks of Godâ€™s kingdom; each home is a hub of evangelism.Â It seems backwards, but we must evangelize the next generation, first. Your heart may be on fire to evangelize this generation, but the reason you have to evangelize this generation is because their parents didnâ€™t do it. So, living the gospel in your home must be your priority.
This afternoon, I want to emphasize three things that you must apply from your experience at GP as you begin to build your home.
LIKE GRACE PREP, YOUR HOME WILL BEGIN WITH A VISION
We know that without a vision, people perish.
Young men, this is the time to be begging, fasting, praying, searching for your home vision because donâ€™t you dare ask a woman to follow you and help you unless you know where you are going.
Young women, this is the time to submit your full will to God so that He may craft your heart and your dreams to be the foundation of your home.
Sometimes, God gives us visions out of the clear blue, but most times God entrusts us with a vision as we
immerse ourselves in His Word,
listen to and observe wise people,
scour books, listen to teachings, meditate on whatever is good.
So donâ€™t be surprised if He requires you to go after a vision with all of your might.
LIKE GRACE PREP, YOUR HOME MUST BE BUILT WITH DISCIPLINE AND SACRIFICE
Proverbs 18:22 says, â€œHe who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD.â€
Proverbs 31: 10 asks, â€œA virtuous wife, who can find? She is worth more than rubies.â€
The implication here is that you must search for her.Â Most likely, she will not pop out of your XBox or emerge from your books. The virtuous woman you are searching for will not be taken up with herself or with passive, spoiled-rotten MTV co-eds. No, the virtuous wife who you are searching for will be getting ready to help you, getting ready to love your children, and build your home with you.
In order to embark on your search and in order to win her heart, you will sacrifice a great deal: pride, passivity, folly, and comfy selfishness but you will learn what it means to love and redeem a woman, to train and bless your children, to lead your family.
Proverbs 14:1 says, â€œThe wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.â€ Women, what you do today, tomorrow, and the next day are either building your home or tearing it down. Do everything you can to build it.
Know Jesus Christ,
accept Godâ€™s healing for every hurting place in your heart so that when you agree to love and help a man, you really mean it.
If right now you learn how to honor and serve your parents and siblings you will be equipped to honor and serve your family in the future.Â As you build your home you, too, must surrender pride, whimsy, and selfishness.
Perhaps the most significant thing you will sacrifice is the spirit of independence which is destroying women.Â There is no room for the independent spirit in a womanâ€™s life: we simply cannot love a man, children, or others well if we are entangled in this popular mentality that we are the center of the universe and we should have everything our way and we should be able to accomplish everything we desire and we shouldnâ€™t have to answer to anyone but ourselves.
If you want to be great in Godâ€™s kingdom, learn to be the servant of all.
In the worldâ€™s eyes, you will be sacrificing so much, but in Godâ€™s eyes, you will be the lifeblood of His next generation, a generation who will praise His name.
If God has called you to remain unmarried, you, too, have some intense work to do in order to build your home. For you are living in the midst of an ever-growing community of single people who are not called to be single. The current â€œSinglesâ€ culture is far from what God has designed for unmarried people and you might have to careen your neck and tilt your head to hear His vision for your home in the midst of a great deal of selfish sexually-charged clatter. But as you obey Him as an unmarried man or woman, you will experience the mysterious blessing that Paul refers to: that intimacy with Christ and that contentment out of which Paul gushes, â€œI wish everyone could experience thisâ€.
Jesus taught us, â€œA wise man builds His house upon the Rock.â€ This requires hard work and sacrifice.
But as you work fervently towards the vision that God gives you, you will find that you are becoming more like Christ. You will mature in wisdom, integrity, and humility. You will find yourself becoming gentle and strong, sacrificial and uncommonly wise.
FINALLY, LIKE GRACE PREP, YOUR HOME MUST BE BUILT WITH JOY
In my humble opinion, joy is the single-most precious substance in a home. Oh, of course it only exists with plenty of love, discipline, and wisdom. But, if you can purpose to be a joyful person and to build a joyful home wherever you are in whatever circumstances, your children and neighbors and community and nation and world will want the Savior you have.
So, plan now to play. Playfulness and joy are inseparable companions. Although you worked hard for four years, if you did not learn how to play at Grace Prep, your education was in vain.Â Learn from Bob: daydream about your family mascot, paint your walls a lot, take a hamster to the vet, dive into baptismal pools together. Whatever you do, pursue joy.
So hereâ€™s my final assignment for you, Class of 2008.Â Iâ€™ll warn you up front that you will have to do a tremendous amount of hard work to complete this assignment.Â I have this moment envisioned in my mind, like at the end of race when the runner has completed the race and is overcome with relief, but everyone else can still see the sweat and energy and hard work that the runner put forth to get to the finish line. I envision you stumbling onto my doorstep like that runner.
Because in the fullness of time, I want you to come to my house and knock on my door.
If God has called you to remain unmarried, I want to hear all about how youâ€™ve done the hard work of building a family of people who are falling in love with Jesus. I want to hear about how you are giving away your money to the poor and inviting the wanderer into your home. I want to hear about how your choices to obey Godâ€™s word are so counter-cultural and so full of kindness that they have become contagious.
If God has called you to marry, I want you to come with your spouse.
Young men, I anticipate seeing the contentment and peace on your face as you say, â€œMeet my wife. I found a good thing. And I aim to love her like Christ loves us.â€
And young women, as you proudly introduce me to your husbands, I want you to tell me all about how you found a man who you could help and respect and love.
Then, in the fullness of time, I want to start receiving those little Christmas cards in the mail with photos of your adorable children. And donâ€™t just sign your name on those cards, but please, jot down little notes about
the scripture that your children are memorizing,
or the neighbors that your children are helping,
the countries your children are praying for,
or the moments when you and your kids sing songs of praise to our Creator, and.
At that time, my heart will swell and I will agree with John that there is â€œno greater joy than to hear that our children are walking in the truth.â€ And the beautiful thing is that, at that time, you will know exactly what I mean.
May God bless you richly out of Zion with the wisdom and character to build your homes. Get to work.
(Oh, the inspiration that may come your way through 10 Million Milesâ€¦ Become a follower today!)