By Rick Lewers

Graduating with honours in life


Recently, a Booloominbah yard full of hopeful aspirants graduated from university.

It was a beautiful day and as always, brilliantly organised by the university staff. ln a procession,

I walked to the podium with women and men whose academic achievements far surpassed my own.

An education had served them well, but perhaps more importantly their education was being employed in the service of others: in agriculture, science, psychology, the arts and so much more.

The thing their degrees cannot assess is whether the graduates will face their world with small thoughts or with great ideas, whether they will live to comfort self or bless others, whether the arrogance of learning might limit their vision to where they will not allow faith to take them. Many a graduate has squandered knowledge in alcohol abuse, betrayed the nobility of their education in sexual immorality and in a sad existence that overdoses on excesses.

Some have simply met failure with surrender and their aspirations are lost. The jury is out of course on recent graduates and only time will tell how they respond to the privilege of their education.

Those graduates are probably not reading this article in fact they are probably taking a break from reading articles. But I want to plead with the degree-achieving crowds of the last few weeks to meet the challenges beyond university with courage and the spirit of not giving up on great life ambitions.

As a father whose daughter graduated two years ago I lived with frustrated aspirations, mine and hers. My aspirations were for a daughter to start earning enough money for me not to have to pay her car rego. Her aspirations are to become the most successful business woman she can be. Nearly two years of frustration were accompanied by part-time work in a high-class dress shop, followed with time as a doctor's receptionist.

The temptation to give up as doors closed was enormous, but two years down the track she started work in marketing, applying knowledge and skills she had learned in the dress shop and at the doctor's surgery, lessons her university course never taught her.

Like myself, parents who applauded their kids and whistled, hooted and photographed with pride may need to offer life lessons beyond graduation on patience, perseverance, self-respect, hard work, hope, faith, love and much more, without which life will never graduate with honours. It is possible to graduate from a university and fail as a human. I don't know anyone with a degree, a masters or a doctorate who has not failed as a human at some point. That is a universal fact, with all the necessary evidence to prove the case. Indeed, many have achieved the dishonours of life while studying for a degree. The real tragedy is that you can grow a brain while shrinking in heart.

The examinations beyond university confront us with much bigger questions than a philosophy class can answer. Where can grace or mercy be found when I fail and guilt threatens the corrosion of self? In an attitude of patience what does life wait for? What purpose in life is worth persevering for?

Every graduate will need to recognise that all their degree has given them is the admission papers to future opportunities, a world of learning, and the possibility of graduating life with honours.

But the astute learner will realise this can never happen without God. In the death of Christ, the failure can find forgiveness. In the resurrection of Christ, hope for eternity offers more than the grave. Relationship with God gives meaning to existence that will see a person patiently persevere in living to be a blessing to others.

And in the rule of God comes the accountability of judgement that should see every person looking to graduate life with honours from God. Now that will be some graduation day, when God hands out degrees with words like "Well done, good and faithful servant." But just like a university graduation day, the sad truth is that there will be those who fail to graduate. How will you do on that day because it is worth thinking about?

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