I did it! I graduated with my Diploma in Christian Studies. And not only did I graduate, I did so in a way that I would have never imagined! Perhaps others might start their journey with a goal of achieving the highest academic marks and becoming their class’ valedictorian, but that was a goal that never crossed my mind. In fact, just doing my best and crossing that finish line was my goal. Did I dream about certain things along the way? Sure I did.
I remember in my first year as a student sitting in chapel listening to fourth-year students giving a message. I distinctly remember feeling a sense of aws. Awe because I realized that that could be me one day! Interestingly enough, I never did give a message in chapel. And not because I wasn’t asked during this past year, but because I had so many upcoming commitments during the available season that I suggested I could do it the year after graduation. (Being on staff means I get to continue to hang around the college!) Well, the Lord had different plans. As I steadily plugged away at improving my ability to communicate and learn, it payed off in the end. I will go down in the history books as the 2014 Horizon College & Seminary Class Valedictorian. I treasure that happy memory as a reminder that you just never know the blessings that will come your way when you commit yourself to doing ALL that you do with excellence. In the end, I recevied four awards: the Delta Epsilon Chi, you can read more about that here; the Validectorian Plaque; the Faculty Award; and, the Saskatchewan Women’s Ministries Award. Humbling, to say the least.
As I was preparing for my validectorian speech I asked the Lord to help me. (I’ve often prayed for his help during this process of learning and God has been faithful to answer!) I was drawn to a story in Mark where a group of people witness Jesus heal a person and they remark, “He has done everything well…” (Mark 7:37). Immediately upon reading that statement I knew this was going to be my central message of encouragement to my fellow graduates. And though I won’t rewrite everything here that I spoke that day, in essense what it means that Jesus does “all things well” is this: whatever Jesus set out to do measured up to its intended purpose, that the way Jesus lived his life – both in the public eye and in private – was done so with excellence and intentionality. And having a standard or spirit of excellence is not the same as being perfect, Jesus was the only perfect human being; however, I believe that a spirit of excellence can (and should!) be the mark of a Christ follower.
As I continue in my journey as a Christ follower, I look back on the last five years with fond memories and a grateful heart. I remember taking time to walk from Horizon over to the U of S for my Hebrew class. As I walked during those beautiful spring days with my backpack on my back I can still recall the smells and the feeling of joy I took as I strolled along and reflected on the fact that I am a student and how GREAT that felt. (Now don’t get me wrong, learning Hebrew was no walk in the park, but the season itself was one of great joy.) I’m grateful because I have had the support of so many amazing people! I’m grateful because God answered my prayers in amazing ways! I’m grateful for all of my teachers! I’m grateful for the interactions with fellow classmates! And in the end, I’m grateful because I know the Lord has used this time to deepen my roots in him and I am coming out of this season with an inner strength and confidence that I didn’t have at the beginning of this journey!
For my closing today, I want to leave you with this blessing (same one I used at graduation!): May the blessing of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be upon you. May the Spirit of God empower you to fulfill all that has been purposed for you, may a spirit of excellence rise up within you so that you may live your life in such a way that it can be said of you, as it was of Jesus, that you do all things well.
Carmen & Ashley invest in others so they can lead and live better. They are the co-founders of LEAD Women.