This article originally appeared in Higher Things® Magazine. Become a subscriber today by visiting higherthings.org/magazine/subscriptions.
Rev. George F. Borghardt
My Son, when you were born I held you in my arms and said to you, “You little sinner! You little hater of God and His word! God is going to save you at the baptismal font!” And God did save you. He named you in the waters of Holy Baptism. He washed your sins away. I remember it like it was yesterday.
Now that you have graduated from high school, I selfishly wish I could freeze time. I would keep you in our house, in your room, safe from the world out there that is going to hate you. I’ve considered just grounding you for the rest of your life, but that doesn’t seem right or fair. You don’t deserve to be grounded—at least this time!
Instead, I’m going to write you this letter and tell you how I feel. I’ve told you before that nothing we do is just for ourselves, it is for others, too. So, I know there are parents who feel like I do about their sons and daughters who are graduating.
This graduation isn’t the end for you. It’s just the closing of one door. It’s a single accomplishment. Now, the real work begins. Time to live as an adult! Time to begin your life out there!
I don’t just want to keep you frozen here because I love you, but I also want to protect you from life “out there!” That scares me! Out there, I can’t keep you in the faith. I can’t protect you from all the filth and lies that will be thrown at you from the world. I can’t fix your bruises anymore or make decisions for you. I can’t even make you do things like go to church or Sunday School!
The Gospel is that I’m not the one who ever had to keep you in the faith in the first place. It all rests on Jesus! He promised to be with you in the waters of Holy Baptism. I was there at your Confirmation to see the good Word that He put into you produce fruit! Those were not dead words but living-Jesus-Christ-and-Him-Crucified-for-you-words that will carry you through anything that you will go through in life. He has put His Body and Blood into you. His Supper will keep you steadfast in the faith—the one true faith—unto life everlasting!
I wish that His gifts meant that you could do anything and be anything in this life. But that would be a lie. You can try to do anything. You can try to be anything. You won’t always get what you want. Things aren’t always going to work out for you.
But whatever you try, do so as if God has given to you to do it. That’s what a vocation is! It is what God has given to you to do in the particular place and time you have been placed by Him. Before graduation, you were a high school student. Now that vocation is over, and it’s off to work and college. You are a student. That is what God wants you to do. You are working to pay for college. That is what God wants you to do, too. Do these vocations as if you were doing them for God, because you are doing them for God.
He saves you by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ. But college and work are, well, work. You have to get up for class. You have to do your homework. You have to get to work on time. You have to be a good student and good worker. When you do your vocation, you are serving God. When you don’t, you are sinning against God. Also, there is no “grace alone” to make things right at school or work. So, if you don’t go to class, you will have bad grades. If you don’t work, you won’t eat.
Don’t worry about what God wants you to do with the rest of your life, either. As you do what is given to you to do in your vocations now, He will lead you into whatever He has next for you in this life. He will give all His gifts in His time. There are no shortcuts in life. There is only His giving in the particular time that He gives the gifts that He gives to you. So, work like you have to earn your life but always know that He gives you gifts like your job, your college, and your career. You work, but your work is always still given by grace alone.
When you fail, don’t get down on yourself. Don’t think that you can fix it. First, confess your sins to God and to those whom you have failed. Be forgiven. Then, suffer the consequences “out there” in the world for wherever you have fumbled, knowing that, because of the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, there are no eternal consequences for your sins. Jesus has taken them all.
After you been forgiven, look for the gift from God in your failures. There’s a gift in every bad thing in this life. There just has to be, because we believe that God is always good to us in the suffering and death of Jesus. So, nothing can happen to you apart from Holy Baptism. Nothing difficult in your life happens apart from the Cross of Christ. He is working all things for your good. Every door that closes, every door that opens, even your graduation has all been part of the good gifts that He gives to you. The gift may be for you, or it may be for those around you. Remember that you learned in Confirmation that we aren’t here just for ourselves. We are here for others—even when we fall down.
This is why my prayer for you is that you get up and go to church every Lord’s Day! Go to Bible class whenever you can! You need Jesus to save you! You need His forgiveness to enliven you to live your vocations out in this world. You need His life to enliven your life. Set your alarm and get yourself to church!
I hope this letter is a gift to you, Son. I hope it’s a gift to the rest of you who read it, too. Your parents love you. They are proud of you. They will be proud of whatever and wherever the Lord leads you. And if you ever—and I mean ever—need any help in your journey, know that your parents will be there for you, to pick you up, to remind you are forgiven, and to tell you that you that they love you.
I love you, Son.
Rev. George F. Borghardt is the Senior Pastor at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church and School in McHenry, Illinois. He also serves as the president of Higher Things.