Graduation in Light of a Pandemic

Written by Rhonda Alstott

There’s been a lump that sits in the back of my throat these days. You know the kind that if you don’t swallow back hard enough the tears will just flow? Yesterday was one of those days I couldn’t keep it down.  It was graduation cap and gown pickup for my son Caleb. My Man-child. My Thing #4.  Caleb, the one child I struggled with years of infertility for and the one who we were blessed with after many years of prayers. The craziest toddler I’ve ever raised. My sweet, sweet boy is now 18, and it’s his time to walk the stage.  He welcomed Tony and I to go alongside him to get his drive thru package of cap and gown, along with his beautiful graduation announcements, complete with May 31st date.   We join the cars lined up outside in the school parking lot, the rain pouring, the wind blowing, and I can’t swallow it down anymore.  The tears flow as NAHS staff hand Caleb his items through the window with masks on.  I sit the yard sign next to me in the back seat and sigh and exclaim “This is so crazy. I still can’t believe this is all happening. I’m sorry Caleb, this isn’t how I ever thought your last month of school would look like.”  He gently pats my leg… “It’s ok mom.”  So true to sweet Caleb’s personality. We arrive home and Tony says, “Don’t put the yard sign out in this storm.  It won’t stand a chance in this wind.  Wait.”
 

“Wow. Ain’t that the truth” is all I can think… what a storm we are living through right now.  It affects our minds, emotions and our physical stamina.  Caleb was born just 3 months after another storm, 9-11.  He was born into a country at war with terrorism. His life has been lived differently than my older three children this side of the towers falling. The current pandemic will serve as the towers falling for a new generation.  The storm we find ourselves in at this point will change our landscape. So many metaphors…what buildings will be left standing? What trees will fall? How long will power be out? Can we face this new reality with a renewed faith and hope in Jesus?  Has our house been built upon the rock or sand? 

 

 My preparation for leading my classes this week via Zoom has led me to two familiar instances when the disciples encountered storms and how Jesus met them in the midst. (Mark 4:35-41, Matthew 14:24-33).

 

 In Mark, their fear was met with Jesus asking them “Why are you so afraid?  Have you still no faith?”.  The antidote to fear is faith in Jesus.  There are times where my fear grows greater than the presence of God in my life, but in the end, I hope, like the disciples, I ask the question “Who then is this man?”, and in answering find my fear no match for Jesus and the presence He brings in my life.  In Matthew, when I feel myself sinking in the storm, as Peter did, when he took his eyes off of Jesus, may I remember that when my faith finds me sinking, I can always cry out “Jesus save me”, and regardless of my momentary faith, Jesus will pull me out of the winds and the waves.  

 

It’s been said we are all in the same storm, but different boats.  That rings true with me.  We are not in control of as much as we thought we were.  We are all having to adapt and change.  We all are having our resources stretched whether it is money, time, energy, or space.  I realize my tears yesterday were tears of grief. Of expectations not met.  My tears were about the future and the plans I had made.  All the unanswered questions…the “what abouts?”

 

In Proverbs 16:9 it says, “We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it” – The Message.  As all of us are learning that the way we want to live is totally out of our control, may God give us His grace and peace and the ability to let His presence be larger than our fears in this pandemic storm.
 

 


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