Last evening, Trinity Christian Academy conferred the standing of High School graduate to the class of 2010. For many of the students, the ceremony was the culmination of 13 years of work, play, and successes, and failures on the same campus and so was in actuality their third graduation ceremony at our school. The completion of Fourth and Eighth grades culminate with a graduation celebration too. An occurance that is odd for many not accustomed to the tradition. However, when we consider what it means to graduate, it is not so strange a practice and in ways mirrors our walk with Christ.
Graduation sometimes connotes the idea of finality, but that is rarely true. Graduation is always a mixture of celebration and anticipation. To graduate means to complete a course of study so that it looks to what is behind to a race that has successfully (or at least sufficiently) ended. However, graduate also means to ‘pass by degrees; to change gradually‘. As such, a graduation is also a look ahead. A graduation ceremony, then, is a transitional moment where the student moves along to the next arena of learning without leaving behind everything acquired in the previous. Augustine wrote of this in his Confessions,
For those first lessons, reading, writing and arithmetic, I thought as great a burden and penalty as any Greek. Yet whence was this too, but from the sin and vanity of this life, because I was flesh, and a breath that passes away and comes not again? For those first lessons were better certainly, because more certain; by them I obtained, and still retain, the power of reading what I find written, and myself writing what I will; (13.1)
There are lessons learned in elementary school that seem inferior to the lessons of high school, college, and graduate school but that appraisal is flawed for a couple of reasons. First, without the elemental, there is nothing upon which to build. I could not perform Calculus without knowing how to count, add, multiply, etc. Analysis of a work of literature is impossible without the rudiments of reading. Secondly, however, the fundamental surpasses by longevity and usefulness. I have forgotten more than I have retained from higher education; yet I read every day. I could not find the “limit” today; but I add, multiply, and count daily.
This is certainly not to denigrate the higher but to remind each of us that spiritually, we never graduate away from the fundamentals of our faith. Jesus wrote a post card to the church at Ephesus wherein he exhorted them with the following words, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.” (Revelation 2:4-5)
Remember, repent, and re-do are Jesus’ exhortations. Remember the love you once had at a high degree for Me and for one another. Repent that it has fallen so short of that height. Re-do the works you once did when your affections were high.
We never graduate from the elemental, only through them.