Finishing the course and who is with you

Here during this season of graduations, for the first time we attended a high school equivalency ceremony. As the one hundred and twenty graduates processed in, I imagined that most of them arrived here against all odds. And after hearing a few of their stories, I found I was right.

The reasons for not graduating high school are many. Some in their youth fail to see the importance of finishing. Others drop out because of family circumstances, bullying, or health issues. The list goes on, but these one hundred and twenty somehow made the decision to go back and finish what they started.

The graduation speaker told her own story of never finishing high school and years later finding it difficult to get the job she wanted because she lacked a degree. Even though it was challenging, she returned to school, and not only obtained her high school equivalency certificate but because of a scholarship she received, she went on to obtain both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She is now on staff at the school encouraging others to reach their goals. She noted the importance of faith in her accomplishments.

I couldn’t help but think of my dear Aunt Nell. Her entire life, it haunted her that she never finished high school, but she had so much responsibility from an early age, as well as health challenges,  there was hardly a moment to think of altering that decision. Finally, in her late seventies, she learned to use a computer and then through attending classes, home study, and tutoring, she finally did it at the age of eighty-one. She put on a cap and gown and received her certificate. She was one of the most Christ-like women I’ve ever known, and her example which includes lifelong learning continues to inspire me.

Someone made a comment that her  late in life graduation wouldn’t benefit her by leading to an income. Well, it did benefit her, and a picture of her in her cap and gown shows a face radiating joy.

The young person we went to see graduate received the top academic award in the class—a great surprise to all including the graduate. And talking about benefit—it’s a clear message that the work, the effort, and all that it took to reach that point were worth it. And such an affirmation to the graduate’s ability.

The apostle Paul once wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” ( 2 Timothy 4:7). Paul wrote these words to encourage us to finish the course in the spiritual realm as well. When we grow weary, when we wonder why things happen the way they do, when we don’t see the clear benefit of continuing, we trust the Lord to help us, to be with us, and we finish. Because here’s the thing, we get way more than a certificate when we finish the course, we get Jesus and heaven.

My Aunt Nell in sharing her testimony once wrote, “I don’t know what the future holds for me here on this earth, but I know who holds my hands. He is my Master, He is my King, He is my Savior, my all and all.” In her nineties, she finished the course, made her final graduation, and I am confident she is rejoicing with Jesus in heaven.

So be encouraged, whatever challenge the Lord has put before you, finish the course. Jesus will be with you all the way.