Dear Graduate: A Letter for the Journey Ahead

Can you believe it’s here already?! Graduation day. The papers have been turned in. The projects presented. The tests completed. The internships lined up. The dorm room or apartment cleaned out and packed up.

The last four years you have poured yourself into this place…and now it’s time to say goodbye.

It’s such a strange feeling, isn’t it? This place of transition. Especially this one. School is behind you now. The whole wide world stands ahead, just waiting for you to come and meet it.

In the days leading up to my graduation, the reality hit me that I could do whatever I wanted. Sure, I’d spent the last several years pursuing a teaching degree, and I planned to pursue a job in that field; but I also felt the freedom to explore. I had this vision of myself standing on top of a hill as the sun rose, looking out over a wide expanse. The world was my oyster.

I hope you feel that way now. I know this season is overwhelming and this semester you’ve been doing all you could to keep your head above water, trying to maintain some semblance of a social life and your sanity as you pressed toward your goal to graduate. And now that you’ve arrived, I hope you give yourself the chance to breathe.

We come from a culture that tells us to keep moving forward, keep doing, keep growing. And that’s good. But we also need time to rest and process. Time to let our hearts catch up to the racing pace we’ve been keeping. Time to seek the Lord and rest in Him.

So as you embark on this celebration and cross the stage to shake hands and walk away with your degree, I hope you take these things to heart–things I’ve learned these last few years out here in the “real world.”

Embrace who you are meant to be.

David writes in Psalm 139 that God knit us together in our mother’s womb, and that He knew each of our days before we had even lived one of them.

The Lord knows us so well, better than we know ourselves. As you step away from the confines of a college university, away from the friends and faculty who have supported you and mentored you and done life with you, I pray you get the chance to get to know you.

I’m not sure entirely what that looks like for you. Each of us are on different places in this journey of self-discovery. I can only tell you that as I’ve continued to seek the Lord, He’s continued to reveal to me who I am–the fact that relationships matter deeply to me; that I’m a visual person and that’s often the way the Lord speaks to me…through pictures; that while I am a thinker, my emotional side is important too; that it’s okay to express my needs and wants, even if they sound silly to others. And even more than all of that, He’s constantly reminding me whose I am.

I am His.

He has called me by name and I am His.

I am not defined by this world or what anyone says about me. I’m a performer, I want to please people, and because of that, it’s often hard to lay aside the opinions of others. But the only opinion that will ever matter is that of my Father. He made me. My true identity, my true worth is found in Him.

Yours is too.

Give yourself the freedom to seek and discover who you are in the Lord. Perhaps there are some things He knows about you, ways He’s wired you, that you don’t understand or are even aware of yet. Ask Him to show you. And then embrace it. Embrace the fact that you are fearfully and wonderfully made; that nothing about you is a mistake or a mess-up. You are a vessel of grace, receiving and pouring out His love. Embrace the fact that you are a dearly loved child of God, co-heir with Christ,  child of the Most High King. When that truth begins to take root in your heart, it changes everything.

Learn to acknowledge your heart.

This is something that’s taken me years to learn, and I’m still not perfect at it. I’m a thinker, and as such, I tend to face life with my mind rather than my heart. I look for the logic, even when my emotions are screaming otherwise. But I think there’s a balance. We need a healthy mix of thinking, feeling, and faith. We also need to learn to take stock of the state of our hearts.

I have a friend who frequently looks me in the eye and asks how my heart is doing. After the surface level conversation, she gives me permission and pushes me to dive deep into my heart and see what’s really there. Most of the time there’s something messy that needs dealt with, something I need to let air out that’s been festering a little too long. She gives me space to vent and cry and feel in ways I often don’t give myself permission to do. She makes space and she meets me there, and together we work through the muck.

I hope you have someone like that, dear heart. I hope you have someone who cares enough to go deep with you, to push you a little to acknowledge the truth of what’s really going on in your heart.

Maybe you need to take a heart check now.

So many things are changing. So many things that lie ahead are unknown. You’re no longer under the structure of college rules and regulations. You no longer have a predictable schedule. This season is over. How do you feel about it? How’s your heart doing?

Enjoy the journey.

I’ve heard a lot recently that the goal of life isn’t a goal at all–it’s all about the journey. We think we have to get somewhere or climb some ladder in order to be happy or successful, but in truth, even at the top, we’re still going to be looking for something more.

A new journey is beginning for you, this journey we call “the real world.” It’s a real thing with so many challenges and joys ahead, and I don’t want you to miss a single one.

I pray you leave this place with your head held high and your eyes bright–even if they are a bit teary–ready for the adventure ahead.

I pray that the hardships you face will shape you and mold you, make you more compassionate and empathetic, stretch you and change you, and ultimately draw you closer to Jesus. And the joys, may they set your feet to dancing and may your shout and sing. May your eyes light up and your mouth utter unceasing praise to the Lord.

I know you have your life goals and your list of to-dos. But don’t make completing your ultimate life goal. Simply enjoy the process.

Oh, dear heart, what wonders and adventures await you. I can’t begin to guess how God is going to move and work in and through you. But this I do know: His plans are good, and He is always with you.

Wherever life takes you, wherever the Lord leads you, He surrounds you on all sides. He’s already been there, already laid the path. And He’s here now, celebrating with you that you did it, you made it! He’s calling you deeper into Himself, deeper into His love and grace as He whispers, “Sweet child, this is only the beginning of what I have for you. Stay close, and hold on. It’s going to be some ride!”

It’s not going to look quite like you think. Life rarely ever does. But I promise you, it will be good. Even when it doesn’t look good, God is fulfilling His purposes and making His name known.

Stay close, dear heart.

And congratulations, graduate! This is quite an accomplishment!

Live in His love!

Related: Truth for Seasons of Transition







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1 thought on “Dear Graduate: A Letter for the Journey Ahead”

  1. What a great open letter to the graduate! Such an encouraging post even for anyone on life’s journey. We are His and our identity is in Christ and that is the most important part of who we are! Yes!


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