Carmen’s Commencement Address

Dear graduates, faculty, family, and friends, 

As we gather today to celebrate your remarkable journey to this point along life’s path, you feel as if you have arrived and yet, in reality you are just now beginning! You will hear it described as beginning a new chapter or standing at a threshold or even that world is now your oyster. 

So, into that mix I will add my own: be a tennis ball, not an egg. That’s right. Be resilient like a tennis ball not an egg— because it is not a question of whether or not you’re going to smack the ground— the question is whether or not you bounce.  

As a Christian headed into the world of work and increasingly complex relationships, you are going to get squeezed by ideas and people who do not share your convictions, a world where the values you hold dear will be challenged. 

So, how do you see yourself, the world and everything in it? Do you have the perspective of God on the things of this day, tomorrow and eternity present? Do you see yourself as an Ambassador of the Kingdom of Heaven, an agent of grace, a minister of reconciliation, a sower of peace, a cultivator of the culture, a light in the darkness? A tennis ball or an egg?  

How did Jesus respond to opposition? John says he came full of grace and truth, as the very light of the world, but some people loved darkness more than light, which means they did not hear nor follow the character nor the ways of Christ. So, if they didn’t follow Jesus, if they didn’t listen to Jesus, how and why should we expect all of them to listen to and follow us?  

Being resilient is the one character trait, the one quality of Jesus, I hope you possess and live into as a person of faith in the future filled with hope now set before you. Do not believe the doomsday sayers nor the purveyors of every conspiracy of darkness prevailing. The darkness does not prevail. The Church prevails. Hell doesn’t win. Jesus has already triumphed over Hell and death, the devil and all his minions. You are a person possessed of a Spirit not of this world, but you are in the world to serve as an operative, an agent, an instrument of that opposite Spirit.  

Now, as you embark on your professional journeys, you will encounter environments that may seem hostile to your faith. That should not come as a surprise to you. You may face skepticism, ridicule, or even discrimination because of your beliefs. How will you see that, hear that, receive that and respond to that? 

God has given you not a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love and a sound mind. When all around are losing their minds, respond out of the mind of Christ. When all around you are haters, respond with the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Do not let your heart become discouraged but bounce like light off the darkest of surfaces for you are, Jesus says, the light of the world—  the light that animated life in the beginning, possessed of the Spirit of the One who came as light but people loved darkness more than Him—  and yet, He shines! It is a light that will never be extinguished and passed by one generation of Christians to another—  and now is the season in which you are privileged to carry that torch and light up the world!  

In the workplace, be diligent in your work, demonstrating excellence and integrity in all that you do. Let your actions speak louder than words, showing the world the transformative power of Christ’s love. Remember the words of Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” 

Find a mentor who will pray with you and for you, walking with you as you cultivate a spirit of humility and grace, seeking to understand those who may hold different beliefs. Let your lives be characterized by love, compassion, and forgiveness, even towards those who oppose you. Resist the temptation to pick up offenses and learn to operate out of the opposite spirit, the every spirit of Christ. 

And never forget the importance of community. Surround yourselves with fellow believers who will encourage, support, and challenge you on this journey. Together, we are stronger, able to withstand the pressures of the world and shine even brighter in the darkness. 

As you go forth from this place, may you carry with you the courage of conviction, the humility of Christ, and the love that surpasses all understanding. Remember that you are not alone, for the God who has called you is faithful, and He will never leave you nor forsake you. 

Congratulations, graduates. Go forth expecting always the unexpected, anticipating miracles confident that with God all things are possible. Be a tennis ball, be resilient, and be blessed.