It's hard to believe that I have finished the coursework for my college education. I had my last final on Monday morning, and I will be graduating Friday, May 11th at 10:00 AM. Things haven't gone as planned since I left for college. There have been lots of changes, or "milestones" to use the terminology a friend used in a recent graduation card. I decided to think back on some of them. This post may not amount to much, but I felt that the occasion needed some kind of acknowledgment on this blog. Here are some of the lessons I've learned and the changes that the Lord brought about in my plans and in my life.
The Lord changed my college plans...He led me to Boyce College after a couple of semesters at Shorter College in Rome, Georgia. I had some great friends, and I settled in rather easily to the college experience. I was also only an hour away from home and could travel home every weekend to visit my family. My family is an integral part of my life, and I was thankful for the opportunity to adjust to slowly adjust to living without them as a regular part of my day-to-day experience. I wanted an education that would train me more theologically. Although my previous college has a terrific music program, I have had the firm conviction that a minister of music is more than the sum of his artistic training. The Bachelor of Science in Church Music degree required only one religion class. That view of music ministry is not aligned with my own. The minister of music (wearing whatever titles may be chosen) is ultimately a minister and servant of the Word. This is why I transferred to Boyce College, which has granted me the opportunity to have similar music classes while adding on Old and New Testament classes and studies in various Christian disciplines including: theology, ethics, and evangelism, to name a few. It has trained me to be a minister, one capable of shepherding the flock, and giving me musical skills to use in the service of the King.
The Lord changed my vocational plans...I thought that I would graduate from Shorter College in May 2005 and attend Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to get a further church music degree. I assumed that I would graduate 3-4 years later and become Minister of Music at some First Baptist Church, giving me a cozy office job and a nice fiscal provision. Vocation was one of the many idols that had crept in my heart. I joke about it now, but so far the few ministry move that I have involved a cut in pay. I am happy though, realizing that the Lord has and will provide for all of my needs (Phil. 4:19).
The Lord changed my relationship plans...I assumed that I would have already been married by this stage of my life, possibly even having become a father by now. I rest in His sovereign goodness, confident that He will introduce my bride to me in His perfect timing. I look back on my plans, and I'm thankful that I didn't find a girlfriend my first few years in college. I was lost and thus living for myself. I knew not experientially how to love sacrificially, nor did I have the capability to love as I ought. Only through experiencing the love of Christ have I been able to show genuine, selfless love to others (1 John 4:19).
The Lord changed my heart...It was a shock to me at the time, but the Lord finally and fully impressed upon me in February of 2005 that I was lost and devoid of God's grace in my life. I was without hope, trying to serve a God that I denied by my life and whose favor I sought to own through hollow deeds. I never thought that I would be one of those guys who would come to know Christ in college. I thought I knew Him, but my pride kept me from coming to Him, even though I was deeply burdened (Matt. 11:28-30) by the awareness of my own sin and the abiding conviction that I was under the wrath of an Almighty God who would have been just to assign me to hell. Sure, I was saved from sin, but I was chiefly saved from the wrath of God upon me (Rom. 5:9).
Finally, the Lord is changing my view of myself...I'm finding more and more sin in my life as the days pass by. As I look to Christ, I see myself deficient of the kind of holiness that I should be exhibiting. As a result of walking with Him, I no longer have unrealistic and lofty expectations of how righteous I am and how capable I am of doing genuine righteous deeds for God's glory. Instead, I find that pride so easily creeps into my heart, revealing a genuine fear of man and a lack of a holy fear of the Lord. Recently, through a shopping excursion, I was amazed at how much money I could spend at a whim with a piece of plastic. Thankfully, the Lord convicted me of this, and I was able to return the unused clothing days later. I can be very materialistic, and I didn't realize this about myself until recent days. This is part of the reason why I'm selling and donating portions of my library. I must not love the things of this world (1 John 2:15).
My prayer is that the Father will make me more like Christ, daily reforming me and conforming me to Christ's image and likeness. My prayer is that the Lord will continue the painful process of convicting me of my sin so that I recognize more areas that need sanctification, holy change. My prayer is that the Lord will wean me from this world in preparation for glory.
The Christian life is much like the college experience...It costs a lot, and the learning never ceases. There are tests...some I pass, and some I fail; but thankfully, the Lord will keep me from falling (Jude 24), from failing to graduate and pass into glory. Thankfully, I'm secure in Christ, and I'll graduate, receiving a glorified body like my Teacher's--the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6) in the flesh, seated at the right hand of the Father.
As I consider this Friday as I walk across the stage to receive a piece of paper acknowledging the completion of coursework, I will think of the day when I stand before the Father, clothed not in a black robe with a mortarboard cap, but in the white robe of Christ's righteousness. As I turn my tassel at the ceremony's end, I will think of casting my crown at the feet of Jesus Christ. That day will be a graduation, the Graduation to end all others.