Administrators, Teachers, Friends, Family, and Fellow members of the class of 2017.
LOOK AT WHERE WE ARE NOW, LOOK AT WHAT WE HAVE ACHIEVED, AND LOOK AT WHO WE HAVE BECOME!!
My fellow graduates, you have achieved one of your long-term goals, one that has seemed to take an eternity, but was over in the blink of an eye. Throughout High school some of us have discovered our specific talents: being a great artist, you may be a beast athlete, you may have a beautiful voice, you may be a star on the stage, and I am here to say that ALL OF US ARE EXTREMELY SMART!!
It is also pretty safe to say that these self-discoveries have lead us to set before ourselves new goals and dreams to accomplish in the future: Like a Career in art therapy, A chance to play in the NFL or NBA, have an album go multiplatinum, star on broadway, or find the cure for cancer.
Whatever your talent may be, there is a good chance that it has made you think about the goals you hope to achieve in the future. There is also a better chance that most of you have made it through your high school career and still feel as though you have no talent and will never achieve your dreams as a result.
Trust me, I have felt that way as well, but this feeling is a complete and total lie.
In my third grade english class, I made a pretty ambitious list of aspirations. My list went as follows: becoming a pop star, owning my own purse-sized cow, marrying a Jonas Brother, and becoming my graduating class’s valedictorian. As of right now, I have only achieved one of these goals.
Can you guess which one? When I originally found out that I was ranked number one last spring, I was beyond elated, but that excitement quickly turned to brokenness.
I began to see my worth as being equivalent to the number that was written at the top of my test, a red pen defining my character, and each mark being a blow to my ego. I believed that I had no other talent outside of my academic achievements, and if I could not achieve my goal of being valedictorian while being so close to it, then I was going to be a complete and utter failure. The underlying flaw of it all was that I wanted the glory for the gift God gave me.
I wanted to be praised. I wanted people to notice what I had accomplished. Every aspect of my achievement was centered on me, myself, and I. My greatest talent, my goal, was feeding my pride.
Becoming Valedictorian is no doubt one of the best things that has ever happened to me, but so many times I lost sight of the true most important goal that I left off of my third grade list and that is: to glorify God with my talents rather than myself. One night I was reading my Bible and Colossians 3:23 seemed to be illuminated on the page. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, and not for man.”
I had read that verse a thousand times, I had it memorized for years, and on this day I finally understood what it meant.
I definitely was not working towards my goal for God’s glory, and how foolish of me to not to praise the One who had blessed me with the talent. Within that moment, it was as if the stress was lifted off my shoulders. It did not matter what I did, how I did it, if my heart was in the wrong place.
My new goal was no longer to become valedictorian, but rather that in my remaining months at Grace Prep, and for the rest of my life; whatever I do, and whatever I hope to accomplish. I will use my talents to worship the one who designed me to have them and to further his Kingdom here on Earth through my gifts.
My fellow graduates, just as God blessed me with a specific talent, He did you as well whether you know what it is or not yet. He carefully crafted each of you with a specific set of gifts, He carefully placed each of us into the Grace Prep class of 2017, and carefully crafted each of our families in order to combine our talents to achieve something bigger than ourselves. Therefore, fellow graduates,
I urge you to use your talents and future aspirations as a way to praise God, working for Him and not yourself in any and everything you do, in college and beyond. To those that helped us get to this moment, thank you!