Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Ultimate Graduation

~Cayla Slater

I just finished up the last major assignment in graduate school. I must admit that it is a relief to have two long years of challenges, hard work, and headaches behind me. Some days I felt as if I was walking over hot coals barefooted. I thought myself an idiot for thinking that I could handle graduate work. In fact, I spent hours crying my eyes out during my first semester and I seriously contemplated dropping out. But I didn’t. I decided to try one more semester. As time went by, my confidence levels improved gradually.  I actually began to enjoy this!

As I look back, I realize that all these difficulties were trials meant to test my mettle. How committed am I to this? Am I willing to go through with this for the end result?  (That is, a Master’s degree!) The answer of course is yes! I wanted a better future for myself. I wanted to feel productive, successful, and important. Don’t we all desire that?

I walk across the stage at 2PM on May 12th. I’m very excited, but I’m also more self-conscious about this upcoming trip than I ever was six years ago when I graduated from Freed-Hardeman University. You see, when I was at FHU, I could hardly wait to begin the next phase of my life: getting a job, establishing my own place, starting my search for Mr. Right, and beginning my exciting career into the world of social work. I didn’t think about the more important things in life. I was far too focused on the physical things.

Many high school seniors now are going to walk across the stage thinking of their next destination: college, trade school, the military, or the workforce. They are anxious to strike it out on their own! College undergrads will be looking for jobs or pursuing graduate studies. It’s nerve-wracking and deeply discouraging for some because of economic reports stating that job market isn’t looking very promising for them. Then we look at the graduate students. They will walk across the stage with great relief knowing that they have officially reached the end of a long academic journey. Most will venture back out into the workforce while a few will pursue a second Master’s degree or a doctorate.  They anticipate better jobs, more money, and a greater lifestyle.

But do you know what I have been thinking about? During my last year of graduate studies, I have often thought about the final destination: Heaven.

Think about it for a second. Our time on earth is an educational and spiritual journey at the University of Life. An earthly university requires all prospective students to fill out college applications and take on massive student loans. Jesus already paid the price for our admission at His university. His sacrifice on the cross of Calvary was more the enough to cover the costs. We will never have to worry about repaying that debt. (What a relief!)

An earthly university requires us to pick a major: education, social science, history, art, engineering, etc. Sometimes we must take prerequisite courses before starting the core classes of our major. In God’s university, the only major He offers is Christianity. We must pass courses in faith, love, compassion, commitment, patience, self-control, and so much more. The only perquisite to being a Christian is baptism. Then we must read the Word, share our deep knowledge of the Gospel, and spend the rest of our days living faithfully.

As students, we live in cramped dorms and we are assigned a house parent. We go to class and listen to our instructor’s lectures. We are given a syllabus every semester and a list of assignments. All universities have textbooks. We must buy them and take good care of them during our use, so we can sell them back during the “end-of-the-semester buy-back book sale.”

At the University of Life, the textbook is the Bible (Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth!). You don’t have to worry about the end-of-the-semester buy-back book sale. No Christian has ever experienced a need to sell the Bible back because this Book is always in demand for all courses throughout our lifetime! If our Bible is lost, damaged, or stolen, we can replace it immediately without waiting to see if our Instructor is planning to buy the newest edition.

At the University of Life, the Lord is our Teacher, our Mentor, and our Father/Houseparent.  The Bible is His syllabus. We can read up on all of His “lectures” and carry out His instructions accordingly. If we have a problem, we go to our Father in prayer to seek His love, wisdom, and guidance.

The Lord is the Dean of students (that’s us!). Instead of papers, tests, and presentations, he assigns us tasks, trials, and tribulations to test our faith, our commitment, and our courage. Instead of a diploma assuring us that we have passed the exams and mastered the material, we will find out if our names have been written in the Book of Life. (Read Revelation 3:5.) In a sense, you could say that our goal is to make the Dean’s List!
Instead walking across the stage, we may pass through the beautiful pearly gates (Revelation 21:21-25). Instead of wearing a cap and gown, we hope to wear a robe (Revelation 7:9) and crown (James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4; Revelation 2:10).

I have friends who anxiously wait for the day that they have saved enough money to buy their first home. But we have no need to worry about that. John 14:2 tells us that the Lord will prepare a place for us. In His Father’s house, there are many mansions for us. Not a room, like a bedroom or a cramped dorm room. We get a mansion!

Many parents love to throw parties to celebrate their children’s achievements. Our Father is the same way. The Lord will prepare a feast for His faithful (Luke 22:28-29). In fact, the Lord will leave the gate doors open because the party is all day for those who wish to join! (Revelation 21:25)

This topic has also made me think of this terrific exciting hymn that we often sing in church: “All Things Are Ready.”
"All things are ready," come to the feast!
Come for the table now is spread;
Ye famishing, ye weary, come,
And thou shalt be richly fed.
Hear the invitation,
Come, whosoever will;
Praise God for full salvation
For whosoever will.
"All things are ready," come to the feast!
Come, for the door is open wide;
A place of honor is reserved
For you at the Master's side.
(Source: http://www.hymnal.net/hymn.php/h/1330#ixzz1tsVKdNQQ. )

My friends, I have to call this the “Ultimate Graduation” because I can’t think of a better graduation than this. Can you?

Cayla Slater is a preacher's daughter who currently resides in Justin, Texas. She has lived in southern Illinois, south central Kansas, western Tennessee, and southern Missouri. As mentioned in her post, she is a 2006 Freed-Hardeman University graduate with a bachelor's degree in social work. She recently graduated from Texas Woman's University with a master's degree in library science. Her dream is to find a job as a librarian and share her love of reading. When she doesn't have her nose in a good book, Cayla loves to get together with friends or challenge people to a rousing game of Scrabble. 

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