I asked one of my patients this week if she had a topic she would like for me to write about in my column. She said, “Motherly advice for graduates.” Since I am both a mother and a former graduate, I think I am qualified to tackle the challenge.
Most graduates are given advice. Usually it is something like, “Try hard and you will succeed,” or, “Follow your dreams and do your best.” Unfortunately, although these statements are made with good intentions, they just don’t really explain what the graduates need to hear at that moment.
In order to define success or failure in life, you have to know your purpose. For example, if I thought the purpose of my car was to make my dinner, I would consider it a great failure of a car. If the purpose of my car is to transport me from point A to point B in comfort and safety with speed, I would consider my car a success.
In the same way, human beings were created with a purpose. Now in order to speak about the purpose of life, I have to assume the existence of an eternal, immortal, invisible, wise, creator God. Without God, there can be no purpose in life.
If you don’t believe me, the authors C. S. Lewis, Tim Keller and Lee Strobel make some convincing arguments.
What does God say about our purpose? Micah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Jesus, the unique Son of God, who came to show us the true way to God, started his ministry with a very simple message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). This is a call to leave behind our selfish, prideful, rebellious ways, and to live in relationship with God as our Father, King, Provider, Savior, Friend, and Lover, and in community with our fellow humans. God has promised to work in our lives and transform us through His power and presence into the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29).
What is the kingdom of heaven? Revelation 21:3-4 describes it like this: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” The kingdom started when Jesus came to Earth, and has continued in small ways when people love and serve and worship God through loving service to others in community. Someday, the whole earth will become God’s kingdom, and will remain so forever.
How do we live in light of the reality that God’s kingdom has started, and soon will be fully here? C. S. Lewis in “Mere Christianity” put it like this: “Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither. It seems a strange rule, but something like it can be seen in other matters. Health is a great blessing, but the moment you make health one of your main, direct objects, you start becoming a crank and imagining that there is something wrong with you. You are only likely to get health provided you want other things more – food, games, work, fun, open air.” We cannot live a life pleasing to God on our own strength, and by our own will-power, but we require God’s transforming presence in our lives to empower us to lead self-sacrificing, obedient lives, and to prefer community over isolation.
Love and worship God, love and serve people in community, remember the kingdom is coming. That is my advice to graduates. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).