The below message was provided on June 3rd, Graduation Sunday by Emma Marais, RHUMC Youth Director
Let’s pray …
We’ve had some pretty wild weather in 2018 so far. That snow storm in the middle of April really had me longing for the spring I was expecting. By mid-April, I was expecting to have put away my winter coat and to have started wearing something other than boots every day. I was expecting grass and flowers and rain. But instead we got even more snow. And when the snow finally stopped, we skipped right over spring and got 100 degree weather in May. Spring is my favorite season, and it hardly happened this year. It felt unfair that the weather wasn’t meeting my expectations. But that’s kind of the problem with expectations, right? We create this image in our mind of how something is supposed to go and sometimes, it doesn’t happen that way. If we’re being honest, it usually doesn’t happen that way.
We aren’t in charge of how things go, which can feel pretty unfortunate. But in reality, I’m thankful that things don’t normally go how I want them to go. Since it’s Grad Sunday, I wanted to look back on my expectations after I graduated high school. I decided to go to college after I finished high school, and if my college experience had gone how I expected it to, it would’ve been really different than how it was. I had built up this image in my mind of graduating from business school, going on to get my MBA, and then working in the corporate world. God, however, had other plans for my life. He had already given me specific gifts that He would use for totally different things… like Youth Ministry at a River Hills United Methodist Church 🙂
It can be frustrating when things don’t go according to your plan. I have so many friends who went to school with the expectation of getting a certain degree in order to get a certain job after college but they totally changed their mind. One of my friends started school for engineering but is now a Youth Studies major. My brother went to school for physiology and now works in logistics. Neither of them expected that this is where they would be today. Neither of them saw this as part of their mental picture of what college and beyond would look like. But for both of them, what they’re doing now is more true to their gifts and hearts than what they originally set out to do. Knowing what’s coming can be great, but being pleasantly surprised by what God has in store is even better.
But what happens when the surprise doesn’t feel so pleasant? What happens when you get to the end of your degree and realize you don’t like the field you chose? What happens when you love the field you chose but can’t find a job in it? What happens when college gets so hard or so expensive that you need to take a break or you can’t finish?
I am not God, so I don’t really have the answers to those questions. But this is where it can come down to your roots. This is kind of a gardening metaphor, but I’m really not a great gardener so bear with me. Think about what plants need… Water, sun, and soil. Nice and basic. Water, sun, soil. These things help a plant grow roots and then grow into what they’re supposed to be. Without one of those thing, it doesn’t go so well. Just ask my office plants, they would tell you that they won’t last much longer without water.
In recapping The Parable of the Sower, there are some seeds that all fall different places and have different fates as a result. The seeds that fell on the path got eaten by birds because they didn’t have any soil. The seeds that fell on the rocky ground sprang up quickly but didn’t have roots, so they got scorched by the sun. The seeds that fell among the thorns got choked by the thorns when they grew. The seeds that were planted in good soil produced grain. They became what they were supposed to be.
This is a really great parable because if you go a little bit further in the Bible, there’s another section called “The Parable of the Sower Explained,” which is convenient for me because it does the hard part of explaining it. I’ll read it to you:
When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path.
(those were the seeds that got eaten by the birds)
As for what was sown on rocky ground…
(that was when they didn’t have roots so they got scorched)
…this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away.
As for what was sown among thorns,
(this is the one that gets choked by the thorns when it starts to grow)
this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing.
But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.
So this shows us the importance of planting ourselves in “good soil,” so to speak, so we can grow roots that give us a solid foundation. The plants that have good roots are able to withstand more trials than plants with no roots or small ones. When we have a solid foundation in Christ, we are able to withstand more trials. We are able to deal with more setbacks, more changes to our vision of what our future might hold. When we have strong roots, we can trust in God that his plan is more beautiful than anything we could imagine for ourselves.
I mentioned more than just soil though, I mentioned sun and water, too. Figure out what the sun and water are in your life. Graduates, use this time of your life to figure out what gives you energy and what sustains you. Try new things, explore lots of options, and reflect on what is truly important. And when things get hard, rely on your roots to ride out any hard times. Because they will come. Life after graduation is difficult, whether you go to college, get a job, or do whatever else is part of your plan. It’s hard. But keep allowing your roots to ground you, and trust in God that his plan for you is beautiful.
And the final piece of my plant metaphor is this: there is no plant that blooms year round. Each plant has a season in which it thrives. Remember that when times get hard. The other scripture we heard earlier from Ecclesiastes reminded us that there is a season for everything. For every plant, it has a blooming season and a wilting season. Just like people. We go through different seasons and don’t have to be blooming the entire time.
Here’s a poem from rupi kaur that sums it up nicely:
This is the recipe of life / said my mother / as she held me in her arms as I wept / think of those flowers you plant / in the garden each year / they will teach you / that people too / must wilt / fall / root / rise / in order to bloom.
Rely on your roots during the wilting seasons, and rise proudly during the blooming seasons, remembering that those same roots in Christ are still there holding you up.
Lord, please remind us all of the roots we have in you. Remind us that you are always there to hold us up, in both the wilting seasons and the blooming seasons. Lord, be with the graduates as they go on their journeys, helping them strengthen their roots and find what sustains them. Lord, I pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.
Check out this music by Hillside Worship for the full worship experience. http://bit.ly/seasonshillside