[Note: Scroll down to see ME giving the commencement speech at my University graduation on YouTube followed by the speech transcript!]
It's been a long six years since 2001. When will I stop marking time by it?
Sometimes the regrets and mistakes of the past can anchor my momentum forward. I can never redo that year. It will never come again. It is the paralyzing memories of that "rock-bottom" time which is why the November-December season has always been a difficult one for me.
Though tethered to that year, the choice to move forward served as my redemption. I could no longer be bound by the past, so God planted in me new vision in order to shift my attention. Upon looking into His eyes, I began to see hope and that is how I moved on from the past. I began walking towards Him, and along that journey I passed the present to get to the future.
The best way to get over the quicksand of looking backward is to keep looking forward . . . .
And that's what I did in 2002. I went to a friend's university graduation and watched her being recognized for earning a bachelor's degree. Prior to this, I had been out of school for 7 years - went to University for 2 1/2 years after high school then stopped due to lack of $$. During the ceremony, I saw myself on stage getting my bachelor's degree. Further, I saw myself being awarded Valedictorian. Additionally, I saw myself giving the commencement speech. I saw all of this and I wasn't even enrolled in school! And I knew that God was speaking to me.
So three days after this, the following Monday, I went in to the admissions office of my friend's university. I filled out an application, was interviewed, arranged financial aid, and I was enrolled for the next trimester which would start in two weeks. On February 25, 2005, I was recognized for earning a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems, with a 4.0 GPA Summa Cum Laude, was awarded Valedictorian of my class, and was given the honor of delivering the student commencement speech for the three-campus graduation ceremony at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California. (See speech below!)
When I think about how challenging the past has been, God always restores my joy by reminding me of the wonders that He performed shortly after those challenges. While 2001 was marked by mistakes, failures and endings, 2002 was marked by grace, vision and new beginnings; 2003 and 2004 was marked by forgiveness, healing and climbing; 2005 was marked by completion, shifting paradigms and new journeys; and 2006 was marked by resolution, releasing and renewed purpose.
In just a few years time, I saw God bring me from a place of shame and closets to a place of acceptance and light. The darkness of the closet inevitably leads to a stubbed toe or a broken leg. As God brought me into the light to reveal myself authentically, I understood unconditional love. I understood just how much God can make good come from horror. I understood the potential of the future in spite of the past.
"Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13-14)
So God keeps me forward-thinking.
And what of 2007? It could potentially be a monumental year! How can I dare to seize the year when insecurities plague me with paralysis, remind me of deficiencies, and magnify my sense of loneliness?
I think of my favorite Biblical hero: David. But not David when he was king. I think of David when he was just a young cute shepherd boy who dared to challenge Goliath. Saul told the boy David that he is not capable of fighting the enemy's champion. But faithful David recalled the times when a lion or bear would attack one of the sheep he was tending. In rescue of the sheep, David had killed both the lion and the bear. Goliath would be no different. (1 Samuel 17:33-37). David's faith was strong and confident because he remembered past victories and used them as evidence of God's track record.
Well, the Lord has certainly established a successful track record with me in the countless times that he's preserved my life, fixed my mistakes, forgiven my sins, restored my purpose, and granted me vision. Time and time again, I have witnessed God's wonders and glory in the midst of pain and suffering.
So I enter 2007 without fear, despite 2001. I anticipate struggles. I expect challenges. I prepare for obstacles. But I look forward to the lessons, the victories, and the blessings that will come because I know my God's track record. We cannot stand by on the sidelines when there is too much Kingdom work to be done. God is not done yet. And neither are we.
"Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6)
Transcript of my Commencement Speech at DeVry University's Graduation Ceremony, February 25, 2005 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California:
Good morning, to Dr. Dishman and Dr. Chu, to the Deans and Professors, to our families and friends, and to the graduating class of Fall 2004.
This is it! The time has come. This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for. So many people have invested in us – people who have loved us, cared for us, sacrificed for us, pushed us, and even hated us – but collectively they helped to propel us forward to this day. The time has come. This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for. But it’s not over.
Now is the time to give up…to give up on the idea that anything, really, is over. This is merely a transition – a part of our process. Most of us will be leaving DeVry. Where we learn may change, but we will always continue to learn…learn new skills, learn about ourselves, learn about the world. Now is the time to realize that we’re not done yet!
Now is the time to give in…to give in to the idea that we can do it…whatever our “it” is…we can do it! We have run this race – we’ve persevered. There are other races to run and to complete and to win. Let us choose to enter that race we call “life” – now is the time to believe in ourselves!
Now is the time to give back…to give back to our university, our family, and to our community. We have something of value to contribute. Let us remember to take that which we have learned and make it useful. Let us find ways to apply the skills and life lessons that we have learned and to sow them back into the world around us. Let’s find a way to encourage our professors; to bless our family; let’s find a way to mentor another person along similar or even different paths. Now is the time to invest back so that the collective return of a better world is reaped by us all.
We have come this far, but not alone. Friends and family, professors and peers, day care and health care, probation officers and loan officers – this day – this thing we did – we did together.
This is it! The time has come. This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Let’s say our thank you’s. Let’s say our apologies. Let’s say our congratulations. But let’s not say our good byes. We’re not done yet.
DeVry graduating class of Fall 2004 – see you out there!
You write: "Though tethered to that year, the choice to move forward served as my redemption."
Powerful, very powerful and it resonates deeply for me as I read it.
I am exicted about your 2007 and hope it crosses with my 2007 like it did in our 2006's. Blessings brother for this new year!
"Now is the time to invest back so that the collective return of a better world is reaped by us all."
Well spoken, Eric! Thanks for reminding us that our educations are more than "just what's in it for me." Being a contributing partner in a community give our lives so much more meaning than just grabbing the gusto.
Congratulations on your achievement and thanks to all those who perservered with you!
Bill aka Gur Tus on GCN
Thanks for that..may 2007 be more amazing then you ever though..I love ya...
Congratulations! Great photo.
Wow, Eric, you are a really great speaker!
Hello. I hope you don't mind, but I've linked to your blog via mine, since I'm discussing gay Christian issues.
Wow, thanks for all your compliments and encouragement everyone! I appreciate it. =)
Thanks for the link M! I've added yours and i'm looking forward to hearing your story and processing of thoughts.
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