by Michael E. Brooks
“To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding, to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion” (Proverbs 1:2-4 NKJV).
The graduation exercises of Khulna Bible College were held Friday, April 27 this year. I was privileged to serve as the Commencement Speaker on that occasion. As I prepared for that task I thought about the paradox of our traditional name for graduation ceremonies — “Commencement.”
Is this not a celebration of the end of one’s school or university career? Does graduation not equate to “ending?”
After all the student has labored for 12 or 4 or some other period of years in that particular phase of his or her education, and these exercises are the final step to receiving a diploma and being done with that portion. “It’s over.” “I have finished.” That is what all the ceremony is about, isn’t it?
“Commencement” is a synonym for “beginning.” Why do we insist on calling graduation a beginning? The reason is obvious. In these exercises the institution, the students, and their families are well aware of the fact that education is training, or preparation for other stages of life.
It is not the main thing, but rather prepares the student for the main thing – family, career, higher education, and more. When one has finished formal education he or she is reminded that life is only beginning, that now is the time to start other things.
Others have observed that few things are truly the beginning or end; most are transitional points. As one phase of life ends, another starts. Birth and death are physical beginnings and endings but even in these one can see a before and an after.
What we learn in school or university goes with us throughout life. If not we have wasted our time and the efforts of those who tried to teach us.
We build on foundations. I like to define education as “The process of learning from the experience of other people.” If we do that well, and retain the lessons, we will spare ourselves much grief, because we will not have to make all the mistakes ourselves (see 1 Corinthians 10:6-11).
There is much positive about the transitional points in life. Sometimes it is good to turn the page, accepting a new opportunity to put old mistakes behind and try again.
The Bible calls this “Repentance.” God is merciful, truly the “God of second chances” as Jonah reminds us:
“I know that you are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness, One who relents from doing harm” (Jonah 4:2).
When sin tarnishes us, Jesus is ready to cleanse and give us another start.
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Even when we are turning the page on a bad experience, let us learn from that experience and profit by it.
All education prepares us for the next day, or week, or year of life, whether it be formal schooling, or the School of Hard Knocks. Remember what you have been taught. Appreciate the good. Avoid repetition of what proved to be bad. These are the keys to good transitions.