Saturday, May 27, 2017

A Message for My Daughter at Graduation

May 22, daughter, Rachel Heather baby girl, graduated from high school. How is that even possible? Wasn't it just yesterday that we just taught her to walk? I know it is so cliche to ask that question, but in the moment, it feels so real. It all went so fast, and then here we are with her walking across a stage, receiving awards, giving a Salutatory speech (you go girl!), and getting her high school diploma. And then, in just a few short months, she will journey off to the next phase of her life--5 HOURS AWAY from home!--at college. I am happy for her, truly I am! And words cannot express how proud I am of her--of the amazing young woman she has become. She is beautiful, kind-hearted, funny, sweet and smart...and so much more! So now, as both she and I prepare for her departure that will be upon us before we know it, my heart and mind continually contemplate all that I want to say before she goes. I know there have already been 18 years of wisdom and love poured into her by her me, her father, our family and friends around her, but now it feels so desperate. Did we give her everything she needs to know to make her way out there in the world on her own? Will she remember when it counts the most? And the most important question of all--will she cling to her faith?

Nothing is more important to me than knowing that my children are serving the Lord. Joseph and I have prayed and worked hard as parents to lay that foundation for them, and now it is time to trust the Lord with their hearts. Rachel is going off to a big, secular university--5 HOURS AWAY from home!--where her faith is going to be tested and challenged. And I know in my heart that that is a good thing. Even though it scares me, I understand how important it will be. I know it will give her an opportunity to search out the Truth on her own, and find it. A faith that is tested and tried is a faith that is strengthened and perfected. So I know that I must trust the Lord to guide her and keep her close to Him. I know that ultimately, she has always been His, and only mine on loan.

But even though I know all these things--truly I do!--and I do trust the Lord, and I trust her, I still want to make sure I tell her just the right things before she leaves. You know...impart that final wisdom as she goes off to the great big world? I mean, even Jesus did that before He departed this earth. When you read through the book of John, in chapters 14 through 17, you find Jesus giving His final words to His disciples before He would leave them. That's incredible, powerful, beautiful stuff there! With all Jesus had taught them in their years together--all He had said and done--He still leaves them with what is most important for them to hear and know for when He is no longer with them. He wants to equip them and empower them to make it on their own when He is gone, and that is what I want for my daughter.

So as I was listening to the various graduation messages given over the course of the week, all with that same kind of purpose, I was constantly thinking and searching for what my words would be, or will be, for my daughter before she goes. And then it finally came to me! On graduation night, God gave me these important words to share with her--"God is a Stalker!" Yup, that's the wisdom that came to me that I desperately want her to know. stalker. And I hope she never forgets it!

The scripture reference for this truth is Psalm 139--all of it. This reading from the Psalms is truly one of my favorites. There is so much in there for all of us, and definitely for our graduates. But all of it can be encapsulated in the simple phrase and understanding that God gave me--He is a stalker. This truth is stated right from the beginning of the passage. The first five verses start out by laying the foundation that God knows us..I mean really, really knows us. It even starts in the first verse with a clear declaration of that truth: "You have searched me, Lord, and you know me." That section of the chapter then goes on to describe the many ways that God knows us. He knows what we think, what we will say, where we will go, what we are doing and when. Suffice it to say, there is nothing He does not know about us. God's "knowing" of us is more intimate than we can imagine or even handle. The writer even says that as well as he concludes the section with, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain." It is so hard for us to conceive the depth with which God knows us. But it is so important to know, especially for our graduates. As they make their way in the great big world, they will be trying to figure out who they are, where they belong and what they should be doing. They may not feel like they know who they are, but God does. And when they face temptations and find themselves challenged in making right choices, saying right things, and going to right places, to remember that wherever they go, whatever they do or say, God knows. They cannot escape Him or hide from Him. He is stalking them.

The next section of the scripture develops this thought further. Verse 7 says, "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?" And the simple answer is, nowhere. There is nowhere they can go that He is not there. Even when they try to run from Him or hide in the darkness of the night--or sin--it cannot be done. He will be there. That is what makes Him a stalker. He is always right there, right behind us, watching what we are doing. Now some may not like me saying it this way. Especially the graduates. It is not necessarily comfortable to imagine that God watching everything that we do, that we can't hide anything from Him. I mean, it's college...they want to have fun, right? It's not right to make them think about the fact that God is peering over their shoulder in everything they do, right? I disagree, and not because I think so, but because God's Word says so. It's not me who said this, it is Him. So He wants them to know and to remember. But the most important thing to understand is why, and that is revealed in the next section of the scripture.

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." (v. 13-16) God "stalks" us because He loves us. God intimately and intricately created each and every one of us, and He has loved us from before the time we were born or even conceived. He has a perfect plan in place for each of us, and a purpose for our lives. He loves us, oh, how He loves us! And so He "stalks" us, not to cramp our style or limit our fun, but because He wants to be near to us and for us to be near to Him. He wants to protect us and guide us on the path He has designed for us. And He wants us to know that He is always right there when we need Him. God is a stalker because He loves us more than we can imagine.

Psalm 139 ends with these words, "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." In light of all that comes before, this is the only way to end such a passage. When I realize and embrace the truth of God's intimacy and love, what else can I bring before Him but a prayer for Him to keep stalking me and leading me in His ways? And so this is the prayer that I want to share with my graduate, my daughter. And it is also the prayer that I will pray for her--that God, who created her, knows her and loves her, will lead her in the way of the everlasting. There is nothing more I want for her.

I love you, baby girl!

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