A letter to the graduates of 2018: God loves you! And what you do matters.

Dear Graduates of 2018,

Congratulations! Before you go off to college or enter the workforce, I would like to share some thoughts with you.

You are going to make mistakes. Probably lots of them! That’s ok because the God who created the heavens and the earth loves you immensely. No mistake you ever make will cause him to love you less. Remember that.

Understand that you were made for love; both to receive it and to give it. No doubt, you already know that receiving love is wonderful, while not being loved is incredibly painful. In order for anyone to receive love, the world needs people who are capable of giving love. More on this later.

There are two kinds of voices in this world, those who will tell you what you need to hear, and those who will tell you what you want to hear. It’s helpful to know the difference because we tend to listen more to those who tell us what we want to hear.

By now, you’ve heard it said that the path to happiness consists of following your desires wherever they lead you.

This is an attractive thought! It is very affirming. The question you should ask is, “Is this what I need to hear or what I want to hear?”

When pursuing our own desires, it’s exhilarating to think that our actions have no real consequences. It helps silence the voice inside that questions whether or not that particular desire is good.

But keep in mind that our own actions change us. Even if we imagine that our actions don’t affect anyone else, they do affects us, and we are a part of this world. So, everything we do affects the cosmos, for better or worse.

If we accept the idea that satisfying our desires is the key to happiness, we will become frustrated when we’re not able to realize them. If someone else’s desires conflict with ours, we will see that person as an obstacle and it will become extremely difficult to treat them with dignity and respect.

Not all desires are bad, of course. But being human requires more than simply fulfilling our desires. After all, dogs can eat when they are hungry and sleep when they are tired. What separates us from the beasts is precisely our ability to deny our own desires when love requires us to do so. We were made for love; to receive it, AND to give it. If anyone is ever to receive love, we must be free to give it. So, we must resist becoming slaves to our own desires.

This is no easy task. It helps to remember that the satisfaction we get from our immediate desires doesn’t last very long.

A much deeper desire humans share is the desire to find meaning in our lives. We Christians believe that the satisfaction of this desire lasts forever.

The good news is that the same God who loved you into being has also given you many gifts and talents. You probably know what some of them are by now, but chances are, you still have more to discover. One way to find tremendous meaning in your life is to see how your gifts can be applied to meet the needs of your family, neighborhood and community. It will feel good doing what you are good (gifted) at doing.

Unlike the satisfaction that comes from fulfilling lesser desires or desires that are not good for us, the joy that comes from applying our gifts to meet the needs of those around us endures. And it causes us to become more like the persons we are destined to become.

God has big plans for you! May he bless you with long, free and meaningful lives!