Monday, May 25, 2009

my senior address

For the last four years, our lives have been mainly schoolwork, preparation for the adult life on the horizon. Time has wrought a change in us; nothing is the same as it was in elementary school. As my classmate Caleb told me, “Pick something and it has not been that way before!” And yet, amidst all the swirling mists of change there’s something looming solidly in the background, something that wasn’t there when we first began high school. Something that we saw in our parents but not in us, not until recently. It is the knowledge of God, the steady realization that He is here with us, He is our rock, our friend, and more than anything it has become a passion with us to glorify Him.

As 1 Corinthians puts it, “Therefore, whether you eat or you drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” My parents had drummed that verse into me and it had the desired effect; I know that, frankly, I am human and only human. But in a lot of ways, that freed me, especially when I began attending junior college in my junior year. Faced with a collective worldview so wildly different than the Christian one, I began to understand what it means to truly glorify God and how important it is to do so. To begin with, the Bible tells us we are supposed to, in Romans 15: 6. “that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We actually have reasons to want to worship him. For me, the knowledge that someone who is absolutely perfect purified my imperfections by dying for me leaves me shaken. As Job’s friend Zophar asks, “Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than heaven -- what can you do? Deeper than Sheol -- what can you know?” And though the question was wrongly put, it still rings true. I flatter myself that as one fond of literature I’ve encountered some of the heights and depths humanity can reach and yet, not a single one of my favorite characters can aspire to such depths as that!

As Elizabeth Browning asks, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” We want to glorify God to the best of our abilities, but our abilities are still only just beginning to develop - thanks to our education and our godly parents. Our Biblical foundations have been formed, our passions, talents, ideals have formed and we’re learning to apply them to our own lives. Now is a time of making connections, of understanding consequences, of seeing the bigger picture…and our place in it. Our experiences in high school have helped to give us a goal - though some of us are still seeking God’s direction, others of us are hoping to be arborists, prosecutors, and professors. Education has shown us how best we can glorify God; it’s shown us how God is alive, is real.

My favorite author and apologist Dorothy L. Sayers wrote an essay called The Lost Tools of Learning, in which she neatly summed up the purpose of education: “The sole true end of education is simply this: to teach men how to learn for themselves; and whatever instruction fails to do this is effort spent in vain.” To learn for themselves - not to be spoon-fed information like so many fledglings in a nest. To learn to discern between fact and fiction -- fact and opinion -- meaning and connotation -- between, substantially, right and wrong. And once we know something to be right or wrong it is our duty to uphold it. “Therefore to him that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin.” James 4:17. Our education has forced us to grow mentally and spiritually, and having a Biblical perspective on the things we learned has shown us the difference between being in the world and not of the world. Hence, the necessity of loving God has become so much nearer to our hearts. In the end, the passing of knowledge is a function of education; the fundamental love of learning is the purpose of education.

No discussion of education amongst us especially would be complete without mentioning the role Harvest Christian Academy played in guiding our parents. Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Frediani. Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Gowen. Thanks to the countless people who’ve been instrumental in our lives through the years - the grandparents and uncles and aunts, the pastors, mentors, teachers, debate and speech coaches, friends, and finally and most importantly, our parents. Thank you, not just for academics, but for the values, principles, and ideals you’ve bequeathed to us - the splendid Biblical foundation that we stand upon. There had to be someone to teach us how to love learning, and as I grow older I realize more and more how brave my parents are! To brave the storms of public disapproval, to keep us indoors during school hours, to make sure that no opportunity was lost for a bit of learning, not to mention giving up free time and privacy for everything from grubby hugs and sticky kisses to darkly muttered words about the state of the union and the socialistic aspects of government today. Dads, Moms, a thousand thanks from each of us to all of you. Your love, wisdom, and guidance have been much appreciated, even though we don’t always show it! Jessica in particular wants to say “thank you for taking on my education at home, for being patient and loving through all the various seasons over the past four years, but especially over my entire 18 years.” Well said!

Now, we ask for something else. By God’s grace, you’ve prepared our minds for action. You’ve set us on the right road. “The heavens declare the glory of God,” says Psalms 19, but if one only begins to dig (as education has taught us to do) they don’t only declare but shout the glory of God. The growing part He’s had in our lives as we’ve begun maturing has highlighted the change in us. We can see how we’ve changed; we’ve gone from ignoring God because He was big and didn’t fit into our plans to finding Him intrinsically necessary. Once upon a time our passions were playing house or cars, but now they’re to live in the service of God. That’s widened our horizons explosively - enough, we dare to think, to begin going out into the world -- to assume responsibility for ourselves -- to dare to stand up for what we believe in, what we know to be right according to the Bible. We stand on the brink of adulthood, at the door of our homes, and see Time standing with giants on his shoulders, waiting for us. He has his orders to let us join the throng of people following him as he marches inexorably on to the horizon God has set for him. Only God can know what we will be in the future, whether we will stand as strong, godly men and women throughout time, but for now we have such dreams - “No one of our age has ever taken power,” said William Wilberforce in Amazing Grace. To which his friend William Pitt replied, “Which is why we're too young to realize certain things are impossible. Which is why we will do them anyway.” We are indeed young, but God is yet working in us. Maybe we‘ll never stand above the rest of the people, but God has given us talents and passions, and at the least we promise to use those for His glory!