Graduation Reflections

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- Troy Hatfield

Last week I received an invitation to a graduating high school senior’s open house. Once I got over the shock that this girl, who I remember being 8, was wrapping up high school, I started to do the math: I graduated from high school 20 years ago.

Deep breaths, Troy.

So I’ve been feeling more reflective than usual this week in light of that stunning reality. Naturally, I’ve thought about all the things I no longer remember from my high school days. If someone forced me, I’d be hard-pressed to divide fractions. I might be able to name 15 of the bones in the body – and even fewer elements of the Periodic Table. Without Wikipedia, I couldn’t tell you who was President before Teddy Roosevelt (he was a President, right?) And you can forget about diagramming sentences, although I feel as strongly as ever about the importance of knowing the different between “there,” “their” and “they’re.”

But what has really high-jacked my reflection this week is less what I’ve forgotten and more what I never anticipated thinking about. Twenty years later, I’m asking questions that were never on my radar; questions that I still feel unqualified to answer.

How can you be friends with your parents while still having times when you’re the child?

Should I let the lady who hit our parked car last week and, it turns out, doesn’t have insurance after all, just “get away with it” or should we try and “make things right?”

What do I say to the couple who just found out they are pregnant, a couple months before the wedding, when they ask about still volunteering at their church?

How do I be more conscious of expressing love in ways that my friends receive rather than expecting them to love me in ways that I want?

Is it right to give one dollar to the guy who walks through our neighborhood every time he asks – is it wrong if most often I don’t?

If I could sit my 18-year-old self down and have a conversation with him/me, I think I’d say three things.

1)  Up to this point, your whole life has been about providing (or regurgitating) answers to questions. From here on out, grow comfortable with asking questions that don’t have obvious answers.  

2)  The wisest people I know are the ones who are humble enough to admit they don’t know. Work really hard at becoming that kind of person and surround yourself with people who will model that attitude.  

3)  In 1917, the American satirist H. L. Mencken wrote "There is always an easy solution to every human problem--neat, plausible, and wrong." Be cautious of those solutions and be careful to not be a source of them.

I’m acutely aware how I still need to remind myself of those three things.  

May we all be the kind of people who courageously ask the tough-to-answer questions with humility and openness. May we resist the urge to give the clichéd or too-easy answer, to ourselves or to others.

(Oh yeah, one more thing high school Troy. It’s useless to try and hold on to the hair. Just surrender to the baldness – your wife will end up liking it anyway.)

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Troy is Lead Worship Pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, MI, where he’s been on staff since 2004. A musician, Anglophile, voracious reader and owner of more black clothing than anyone he knows, Troy has also recently married Lis, a violinist and lover of every member of the animal kingdom. Follow Troy on twitter @tr0yisbald.