In keeping with tradition, Dr. Brad Zockoll just published his "Love Letter to the Graduating Class of 2018". Grab some tissues and enjoy his parting words of encouragement to our newest graduating class!
It is a bit after 6:30 in the morning.
I am sitting here at my classroom desk and shaking my head silently. It is hard for me to believe that today is the very last class I will share with you. In a week both you and I will don the cap and gown and you will look at me with that look so familiar to me after twenty years in education.
Your face is beaming brightly and your hands are clasping in nervous excitement, but your eyes are what I notice most. They speak volumes.
I’m really stepping out. This is actually happening. This is real, isn’t it?
I’m a little bit frightened.
Yes, I know. I can recall the same feeling. I have a vivid memory during my high school senior year of finding a quiet evening when the rest of the family was out. I collapsed on the couch, stared at the ceiling in total silence, and quietly wept to myself.
Why? I’m not sure. Perhaps a number of things.
Perhaps on one side it was knowing that I was leaving so many things behind that I would never regain. The times my best friends would sit in our family kitchen until the late hours. The raw crisp nights of high school football. The goofy jokes in those boring study halls and the raucous laughter of the school cafeteria. Playing Stoop Ball off of the front porch steps with my brothers and sisters. Those once-in-a-lifetime teachers who both instructed and befriended me.
Then on the other side it may have been the apprehensive step into the unknown. The feeling of confusion. A dorm room and a college syllabus. School bills and laundry money. Deadlines and exam schedules. Dropping classes. Adding classes. More school bills.
You’re stepping into new territory, but you’re not going alone. As I sit here and write this, I’m telling you that the Best Friend you’ll ever have will walk you through the valleys and over the mountains, no matter what career decision you make. I’m living testimony to the fact that the Christ of the Bible will lead and protect you in ways that you will find simply amazing. All it takes is dependence on Him.
So now, let an old high school teacher leave you with one final instruction.
Yes, be kind.
Like a campfire in a snowstorm, people are drawn to the warmth of a gentle person. I have seen Christians who were amazing in Biblical knowledge but had no compassion. They were like the 1 Corinthians 13 picture of a clanging bell – lots of noise but no appeal. One old Scottish preacher finished each of his sermons with “Remember, if ye are a Christian, ye should be kind. An’ if ye are not kind, ye are not a very good Christian.” Share friendship with others. Learn to cultivate compassion. I can attest to the fact that I have seen granite-hard souls melted due to the genuine gentleness of a caring Believer.
Ephesians 4:15 says to speak the Truth – and we know the whole is thirsting for True words of salvation. Yet that same passage connects Truth with Love. “Speak the truth in love.”
Love your fellow Christians. Love those outside the faith as well. Love your neighbor, even though they have dogs that yap late into the night. Love those dorm roommates even though they snore and leave a toothpaste trail in the sink.
Love the strange. Love the widow. Love the orphan.
Love the unlovely.
And I can honestly say that I love you, my dear friend. It has been an honor to instruct you over these past years. I grieved when I saw you try your hardest but you received a failing test grade. I rejoiced when you aced the next exam. I was ecstatic when I heard of you sharing our in-class Bible instruction with family member, youth group buddy, or homeless man.
This part is hard. You’re stepping out. Which means you’re stepping away. We all knew this was coming; we train you for this, but that doesn’t make it any easier for us.
This is it. Your final steps here. We’ll treasure this final day and we’ll cheer in your first steps tomorrow.
Ah, rats. Here I go again, crying. Consider it the fault of an old man, but also consider it an expression of my gratitude for the good years we had together.
Write to me. I will pray for you.
And I mean every word when I say
God bless you.