May is a time of graduation, and the beginning of a summer full of blooming flowers.
I graduated high school 28 years ago with a class of 16. Fourteen of us had been together through middle school and high school, and some since Kindergarten. I joined our class in the middle of second grade, when my family moved from a neighboring town. I had my kindergarten year in one school, first and part of second in another, and finally moved to the town where I grew up. A few other kids joined us as we progressed through elementary school until we formed a solid foundation of 14 students moving through middle school and high school. Our last year, we acquired two other girls from a neighboring school district that closed. In a class that small, we became a family.
During the last 28 years I have avoided most of my classmates, beginning with our fifth year class reunion. In those five years, I had changed so much that I wasn’t the same person I was in 1987 when I graduated high school. I had been through so much that had molded and shaped me into someone I was certain would be unrecognizable to my classmates. After that, I avoided my 10th, 15th, and the last one a few years ago that was an all-town reunion, really for the same reason. I was afraid I would no longer fit in with my class, that I had changed so much that I wouldn’t even recognize myself with them.
Then this week, tragedy struck our small class as we lost our first brother. Driving to the funeral I experienced so many emotions, including being afraid again to be in the midst of my classmates. Only a few of them know the person I had become; the rest have only high school memories of the person I was. About half way, I started becoming anxious to see the types of people everyone had become. Sure, I knew where they lived and what they did, but I didn’t really know who they were. That takes time that is sadly lacking when you live so far away from each other.
As you do not know the path of the wind,
or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb,
so you cannot understand the work of God,
the Maker of all things.
Sow your seed in the morning,
and at evening let your hands not be idle,
for you do not know which will succeed,
whether this or that,
or whether both will do equally well.
When we are born and go to elementary school, we are but seedlings in God’s garden. Our souls are new and shiny and though we are all individuals, we all look like tiny seedlings in the eyes of God. As we go through our middle school and high school years, and start trying to figure out who we are and what we are going to grow up to be, we turn into weeds. A sunflower in a garden is beautiful, but a sunflower in a field of soybeans is a weed. Though we are all stuck in the same place, in the same class, in the same town, in the same state, that is not where we all may belong when we grow up, or where we begin to grow into the flowers we will become.
At 18 years old, we are barely formed. Almost 30 years later, we’ve grown into what we are supposed to be. The flowers that God planted so many years ago are blooming in His world, adding color to the days and years of our lives.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
~ Jeremiah 29:11
As children, we have no idea what we will grow up to be and how we will add to God’s world. School prepares us for the world by giving us challenges and rewards, joys and sorrows, inclusion and rejections, love and hate, and so much more. As we all cross the stage and are handed a diploma, we have no clue what the world has in store for us. If we’re lucky, we know that God walks with us through our journeys. He holds our souls in His hands in times of sorrow, and rejoices with us in our triumphs. He alone knows the beautiful flowers he intends for us to be.
Almost 30 years later, my tiny class of 16 is spread out throughout our state, country, and yes, the world. Who knew we would live such diverse lives, and grow into the beautiful flowers we have become? Even in our sorrow and loss this week, we are still connected by the strong roots we formed as a class. I know God is still watching over all of us, holding all 16 of us in the palm of his hand. One of us just gets to be a little closer, in God’s heavenly garden now.
To this year’s graduates, I congratulate you and wish you luck as you grow into the beautiful flowers God intends for you to be. You will have fantastic joys, and you will have incredible sorrow. But always and everywhere, you will have the love and support of your family and friends to help you through it. And though they seem far away, remember that in your graduating class are the people who helped you set your roots, who gave you the foundation for the beautiful person, the beautiful flower in God’s garden, who you will become.