At the last minute, I decided to put on my blue suede shoes with my suit tonight. I was heading out the door for our school’s commencement exercises. I surprised even myself by my attentiveness toward a detail as trivial as my feet.
My wife was a little jolted, too.
Shoes are the last thing I notice about a person. I’m more prone to notice tired eyes or at least bright turquoise earrings. But sitting in the gymnasium tonight, I couldn’t help but consider, at least symbolically, the shoes of my former students, including those from years ago who were sitting in the audience.
People have been busy changing, I noticed.
After the ceremony, it’s customary to visit with graduates outside the main doors. One graduating senior stopped by to chat with me. He sat in my classroom three years ago and during the intervening years would sometimes drop by and share his writing with me, in which he pontificated regarding a range of issues of great importance to him. A fiercely independent thinker, he usually warned me about those grand conspiracies involving ruling parties in our government. I even remember something concerning extra-terrestrial life. He always had a way of returning to Aristotelian metaphysics.
Again, I noticed his surprisingly clear blue eyes this evening. He’s one of those people who may have never seen the ocean, yet his eyes speak so well of the wild expanse found in those deep waters that I’m almost convinced he’s been staring into them for weeks. But tonight during our chat, I sensed a deeper clarity shining in his eyes.
And then out came the truth. He explained how, just two weeks ago, he became born again. “Very born again,” he said. He confessed that he has spent a lot of wasted years living in his head, consumed with ideas and theories. But now he had found life, true life. His voice was full of new, passionate rhythms.
I couldn’t stop looking into his eyes. I saw Jesus alive and at work. What could be more exciting? I sensed a bit of heaven open up as I stood there with him on that bustling concrete sidewalk, which seemed obsessed with camera flashes and preserving the here and now. But instead of erecting a monument to the past four years, I had the opportunity to look a little further down the road toward eternity.
The contrast captured my attention. Just a few minutes before, I sat in the gymnasium, listening to speeches which paid homage to the spirit of competition and the deserving distribution of accolades. But now I’m standing next to new life.
Graduation is usually a time when we reflect on the hard steps which we have taken to arrive at a destination. We also reflect on those appointed steps of the future which we will surely follow on our journeys. In education, we often glamorize both destinations and journeys. No wonder we confuse them in life.
We need to spend more time listening for those footsteps which matter most. Yes, the awards and accolades we hang about our shoulders are often important and worthy of celebration, but we must remember that Jesus never exhorted us to live upon a stage, though He did invite us to sing a new song — because only He can deliver us THROUGH a stage. No matter how hard we work to do that on our own.
“He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay,
And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;
Many will see and fear
And will trust in the Lord.”
Let’s not become too distracted by tassels and gold medallions. Let’s remember to look down at our feet and celebrate where we stand.