The following is the commencement address given to the Granite Classical class of 2017 by Mrs. Bethany Pautrat.
To Mrs. Morton, The Granite Board, tutors, parents, family, friends, and graduates. It is an incredible honor to have the privilege of being here with the Granite Class of 2017. Thank you for the opportunity.
As I started to prepare for this moment, I began to recollect and reminisce about the beginning of the year when we first met and started to get to know one another. I knew some of you by name or by a “hi” or a wave in the hallway. But the first day of classes, which oddly seems like yesterday and so far away at the same time, was truly our first introduction.
We started with basic first day formalities such as names and expectations, and we chatted about what we did over the summer. There was some expected senior thesis moaning. There was also quick jokes, laughter, grammatical corrections, snarky looks, and brilliant exchange of words. Two hours flew by, and you all ran out of the door to lunch with a, “See you next week Mrs. Pautrat!”
As I sat at my desk, I did not ponder my excitement at your dreams for thesis, at the study of the postmodern world, of my dreams of discussion of art and culture, or of reading and analyzing Orwell, Lewis, and Keller to name a few. No, my first thought was this: I am in serious trouble. They are quick-witted, well-spoken, opinionated students who think they are are smarter than me. And I’m a bit concerned they may be right.
It has been an absolute joy to be kept on my toes this school year by such a tremendous group of young people. I want to take this one last time to speak to you and to impart a few things I have learned on the way.
When I was graduating from high school somewhere in a strange place called the 90s, it appeared that I had it all together. I loved Jesus, I had been on a few mission trips, I had a 3.8 unweighted GPA, AP credits, college scholarships, honors program offers, and finally, the perfect pointe shoes. Appearance can be deceiving. You see, I was actually unsure of God’s calling, a perfectionist who wanted a 4 in front of that decimal point and full scholarships, and I was highly insecure in my identity.
As I have delved into the the depths of God, I have come away with truth and healing in three key areas.
1. Fear Will Paralyze Your Pursuit of Destiny.
I cannot tell you how many opportunities I passed by because I was scared of rejection. I was terrified of what people thought about me, how they would respond to that poem I wrote, to the idea that was aflame inside of me, or to a testimony I wanted to give. As a pastor I once heard said, I was living by the praise of men and dying by their criticism. Seniors, give your fear to your Father. Trust Him with your pursuits and with your desires. 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” His love is perfect and can be relied on to demolish fear. You are children of God, conduits of His Glory, and deeply loved. Brennan Manning summed it up best when he said, “Define yourself radically as one beloved of God. This is the true self. Every other identity is an illusion.” Know who you are in the heart of your Father and as the scripture teaches, fear not, for He is with you.
2. Listen to Winston Churchill: Failure is not Fatal.
I took every failure as an indicator that I was a terrible student, creator, artist, writer, friend, or even Christian. I allowed failure to stop me in my tracks, boss me around, and tell me that I was worthless and would not amount to anything. I was missing a tremendous opportunity to grow and learn. I wish I had heeded the words of Thomas Edison. He said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Don’t give up on the ideas; they are seeds that God has planted in your heart. Feel the sting; take a deep breath. You can get up again, and if you never experience failure the victory will never be quite as sweet. You have to have the ability to throw cowardice out the window if you want to be be victorious. There is something about being able to overcome. Psalm 73:26 says, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” You will fail and it may not feel wonderful, but your strength and your sustenance comes from your heavenly Father. So climb that mountain, scrape your knee, and get back up. In the words of Helen Keller, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”
3. Hope is an Anchor
I was the queen of pessimism and worry. I always thought of the worst case scenario when I heard about something terrible on the news. There are things happening in our world that through earthly eyes seem unprecedented. The unhinged political scene in the United States alone is enough to make you feel hopeless, not to mention radical Islam, terrorism, and droves of people turning away from the light and accepting evil as truth. The world appears to be shaking. But we have something the world does not have. We have hope. We have Biblical hope: confident expectation or joyful expectation. When I look at you, seniors, and I see who you are and who God has created you to be, I am filled with hope. You are light bearers and are going into the world ready to impact the lost and the dying with the greatest Hope there is–the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Psalm 147:11 says, “but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.” C.S. Lewis so aptly describes our deliverance in The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe: “Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight. At the sound of his roar sorrows will be no more, when he bares his teeth, winter meets its death, and when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.” Jesus has come. He has the victory.
I Corinthians 4:7 says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that that this surpassingly great power is from God and not from us.” Face the the future with an expectation of the victory won by Jesus. To quote Brennan Manning once more, “We have been given God in our souls and Christ in our flesh. We have the power to believe where others deny, to hope where others despair, to love where others hurt.”
I want to leave you with this. In the 1980s, there was a famous movie called “Chariots of Fire.” It is the story of the life of missionary and champion runner Eric Liddell. There’s a famous scene where Liddell is being reprimanded by his sister for not putting God first as a missionary to China (which he later pursued and gave his life for) and for taking a season to pursue competitive running. Liddell responds, “I believe that God made me for a purpose. But he also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.” This is my deepest desire for you. That you would not allow your worship to be contained to the four walls of a church building, but that in every talent, gifting, and pursuit, you would glorify and honor your creator, your life a living sacrifice. There’s worship song that so beautifully illustrates how God wants to use to your life. It says:
Pick me up like a paintbrush
Dip it in the colors of my life.
Paint your picture, Father
And fashion a heart that is fully yours
Take your fingers, God,
Master potter come form the clay
Tell your story
As you mold me
Fashion a heart that is fully yours
And write your name in the clay
And sign your name on the picture. (Julie Meyer)
God wants to make a masterpiece of your life, with colors and shapes which he has sovereignly ordained for you.
Bekah: Help people to feel better and stronger in their bodies as you train them to be healthy, and feel his pleasure.
Caleb: Save the world from computer viruses, create, get a patent, and feel his pleasure.
Gabriel: Write the shorts stories, plan the famous novel, get published, and feel his pleasure.
Reagan: Create innovative robotic solutions to help make the world a better place, and feel his pleasure.
Susanna: Design, create, solve difficult problems with great thinking and beauty, and feel his pleasure.
One more time: Awake Narnia.
Love: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,”
Think: “and with all your mind,”
Speak: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Love. Think. Speak. Take all that has been planted deep inside, and go change the world for the sake of the Gospel. I cannot wait to see what you do!
Bethany Pautrat teaches history and Omnibus at Granite Classical Tutorials.