My first year of working in a high school is coming to a close, and I’m finding myself sentimental as graduation and senior excitement has descended. Who am I kidding? I get sentimental every year during graduation season. You see, when I graduated high school, I was class valedictorian. 

I don’t say this in a bragging sort of way. It meant that I had to give a 15-minute speech to around 1,000 people sharing my supposed documented wisdom among my fellow 17- and 18-year-old friends and their families. I don’t have problems talking to or in front of people—Betty will tell you that. However, I will never understand why someone who is 17 or 18 (17 in my case) years old is expected to stand in front of an audience and speak as a life authority because they had good grades. Looking back, I don’t know if I had the authority to speak on much of anything. I don’t remember most of what I said, though I know Betty has the speech somewhere. I hope it was good. 

Here’s what I wish I had said: 

You’ve probably been told that now is the time to “find yourself.” Guess what? That’s an ongoing process. When you’re trying to figure out who you really are, you don’t have to look very far, because you are God’s child, and He is your heavenly Father. Remember that first and foremost, and you’ll be fine. Knowing that assures you who you can call on and your path will be directed. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us: 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

When you do that, everything else pretty much follows. 

That being said, you won’t always know the answer to things—and that’s okay. Again, you don’t have to look very far. Seek His word; because that’s one way you really get to know your Father. Maybe you’ve heard the saying, “When all else fails, read the instructions.” Get out your Bibles, my friends. This is where the real wisdom is found. I can’t think of anything I’ve ever had a question about that the Bible couldn’t answer. And if you need further clarification, pray to Him and ask! I promise He will answer you. It may not be the answer you want when you want, but you will hear from Him. He loves you, and He’s not in the business of leaving His children hanging (check out Amos 3:7). That’s just the beginning. You should be seeking Him everywhere. Just look at Hebrews 11:6: 

But without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.” 

We are a society that likes rewards. I can’t imagine anything greater than a reward from the One who invented rewards. You can bet anything He comes up with is going to be better than anything we could have come up with. In fact, He is the greatest reward! I can’t wait to get to Heaven and have my very own endless Cool Whip cloud to sit on and eat without gaining weight or my blood sugar being high (that’s what I used to think Heaven was like when I was little)! 

You will make mistakes. You might even make big ones. It’s a big world out there, and there are a lot of things out there to tempt you. When it feels like the world is condemning you, remember: it’s not about the world. It’s about the Father who bought and paid for you with the blood of His own son. We are not perfect people—that’s why He gave His only Son. He’s not having a board meeting with Jesus and the apostles because He thinks you’re a lost cause and a bad seed. Not at all! He knew our paths before we even walked them, and yet He wanted us to be part of His family anyway. Wow! In fact, Ephesians 5:8 says, 

“For at one time, you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” 

Nothing you could ever do could change that, so don’t let the enemy tell you that lie. 

Sometimes, life is hard. Unfortunately, we live in a broken world. Sometimes we have to be brought to our knees in order to get on our knees and pray. Have you ever noticed when things are going really bad, we’re inclined to say, “Oh God, help me!”? I think it’s because deep down, we know we’re not alone. If you need confirmation, look no further than Matthew 28:20: 

“Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

It says it right there: we are not alone. So often, it feels like we are very much alone. I know when I left home and went to college, that was exactly what I felt—alone. I didn’t have anyone telling me what to do anymore; I was surrounded by a lot of new and intimidating people, and taking a full load of classes that were difficult. I was used to Betty following me around (the way mothers do), being surrounded by friends, and school being a breeze. This was a complete culture shock! I didn’t know what to do, so I spun out of control. For the next 10-plus years. 

I am here to tell you: you aren’t alone. When you feel that way open that bible, and reach out to someone else whom also knows Jesus. Ask them to pray with you and for you. Hit your knees. I’m not saying life is going to become breezy, but you will understand that He’s there, that He will bring you through whatever trial comes your way, and that He will use it for His good. 

Things will happen in the right time. Again, we are a society that likes rewards. We want what we want yesterday. I have a list of things that I would give my eyeteeth if they would happen RIGHTNOW. But for some reasons--not all of which I’m clear about--it’s not the season. Ecclesiastes 13 pretty much spells out that there’s a time for everything. However, we don’t get to decide the time—which is a good thing. A lot of times, we try to manipulate time—I can definitely vouch for that one; I can also vouch for the fact that it didn’t work out very well. Patience has never been one of my strong suits, but I can at least say 

Thank God. Every day. Early and often. This verse is what made me stop and say, “I have to include this point.” 

Psalm 63:3 “Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You”

That’s right, my lips are going to praise Him. He is better than life. I have accomplished nothing without Him—not even being class valedictorian. My life has been made rich because of Him. My life has been made possible because of Him. I’m not even talking about birth. Friends: I’ve been suicidal, but He is the reason I’ve lived to see another day. There have been a number of times that, according to medical science, I shouldn’t even be here. But I am. And I love that He has a purpose for me. And I’m going to sing, dance, fist pump, jump off furniture, and everything else because I couldn’t be happier or more thankful for that. 

Class of 2016: I think my 15 minutes are up. If I could give that speech again—of course knowing what I know now—that is what I would have said. However, it’s okay, because I can say it to you now—a few years later. I’m still not sure I would consider myself an “authority” on anything, but I know God is using everything I’ve experienced in life for His good. I hope something in here has encouraged some of you. Regardless, I now know who I am in Christ and that He loves me. I know that life is still going to be hard sometimes, but I know I don’t have to do it alone, either. Neither do you. All of that being said, I say, go forward, be thankful and be fruitful.