Every year I buy a handful of graduation cards, some for the graduates at my church, some for the graduates at churches I attended when the graduate was seven years old and pig-tailed and my favorite—I’ve had so many favorites. I buy the cards and I sit at a table and stare into the blank middles and try to think what an eighteen year old needs to hear.
Commencement speakers will tell them to DO and BE and GO. Change the world. Make something new. Follow your dreams. Be awesome.
I like that. I’d say that, too, but I wonder if these kids—excuse me, young adults—know what awesome is.
Is it 2,000 likes on Instagram? Is it 10,000 followers on Twitter? Is it a hot girlfriend or a job with benefits or a nice house?
You know how sometimes you read something and it stays with you in this remarkable and inexplicable way and you find yourself writing it out on index cards and quoting it to friends and thinking about it when you have to make hard decisions? That’s how it was for me with this:
If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers. You wouldn’t tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie…The truth is, you wouldn’t remember that movie a week later, except you’d feel robbed and want your money back. Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo. But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to be meaningful. The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won’t make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either.
My husband and I usually give seniors this book as a gift—it’s Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. We find a blank page at the front and write, “Tell a better story.” And we mean, Be extraordinary.
A friend emailed me recently. She said, “Sometimes things just feel so stagnant, like everyone around us is ‘going through the motions.’” She said sometimes she and her husband feel crazy for wanting more.
"Are we?" she asked.
If I were writing a commencement speech for my friends, us thirty some-things neck deep in debt, arms full of kids, days full of work, I’d probably use this quote from Uta Hagen:
- "We must overcome the notion that we must be regular… it robs you of the chance to be extraordinary and leads you to the mediocre."
I read those words, and I wonder what it is about regular we like so much.
Because regular looks like this:
- The average American is $130,000 in debt.
- The average American cheats on his spouse. According to the Washington Post, “it appears that cheating is as common as fidelity.”
- The average American woman owns 27 pairs of shoes.
- The average American man viewed pornography this week. (The average American Christian man did too.)
- The average American tells a lie (and a half) every day.
- The average American spends 6.9 hours a month on Facebook and 40 hours per week watching television.
If that’s regular, are we crazy for wanting more? Or crazy for not wanting more?
So back to the card. And the commencement speech for thirty-somethings. If I had to say something, I’d begin with this: Be extraordinary.
I began writing this post with the word “extraordinary” on my tongue and the question in my mind, “Am I called to be extraordinary?” And now, hours into thinking and writing and deleting, I can’t help but answer “Yes.”
Sometimes we hear “extraordinary” and we think heroic or famous or genius. But extraordinary just means remarkable. And remarkable just means different, different enough that people notice and “remark.” An extraordinary person stands out.
You should stand out. What’s around you isn’t worth being.
In the Bible, God calls that “holy.” And that’s the second thing I would say (which is really the same as the first): Be holy.
Holiness sounds boring and its reputation is bad. We say “You’re so holier than thou,” and it’s not a good thing we mean. We think holy people think they’re better than us and we dislike them for it.
But Moses says, “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.” Paul greets almost every church to which he writes, “holy people” of God. Because holy is expected, assumed of a people made different, extraordinary by the washing blood of Christ.
But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation…
We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all…
Like it or not, holy is our calling card. We were made, remade to be different.
Some of that difference is inescapable because “once for all” we’ve been made holy. We can no more scrub the holy scent out of our clothes than we can scrub the color off of our skin. But some part of holy is avoidable, because the epistle writers remind us again and again to BE holy, to run after holiness, to catch it by the shoulders and never let go.
Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord…
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…
Holiness is transformation, never conformation. It turns “regular” on its head.
- Holy looks like financial freedom, letting money serve us instead of our serving it.
- Holy looks like commitment and loyalty, unfailing love.
- Holy looks like simplicity and generosity, refusing to hoard more and more when others live with so much less.
- Holy looks like victory over addiction, refusal to be crippled by pornography or alcohol or food.
- Holy looks like telling the truth when no one else does.
- Holy looks like disconnecting the media IV and living life on purpose.
Holy looks like changing lives and making the invisible visible and healing the hurting and feeding the hungry and speaking truth and living love out loud. Holy ushers eternity into time. Holiness is big and exciting and mountain-summiting, marathon-running, battle-winning epic.
Be holy. Stand out.
So that as you live your remarkable life, your holiness shouts and calls and draws others to the one who is and makes Holy:
And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”
Tomorrow’s Post: The Extraordinary Ordinary (or Everyday Awesome)