My youngest daughter just graduated from high school, and since we home-schooled her, I gave the commencement address. I’m including the text here.
G.K. Chesterton once observed: An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered. Around this house, we are fans of the writing of J.R.R. Tolkien, and Amanda would tell you of that night when I opened the Hobbit and started reading to the girls from that book with the green jacket and the gold lettering on the spine. At first they were not sure they would like it. But I can tell you that by the time I was done reading just the first part of the first chapter, An Unexpected Party, that they were hooked. The hero of that tale is one Bilbo Baggins, who is sure that he wants nothing to do with adventures. When Gandalf the wizard tells him that he is going to send him on an adventure, Bilbo states flatly, “We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty, disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them.”
The recent movie that has come out plays this to a T, and shows our Mr. Baggins as someone who is quite happy living in his hobbit hole, eating his dinners, and having a quiet, normal life. But Gandalf knows that Bilbo needs to go on this adventure, and the tale is made ever more interesting since we know that Bilbo has this struggle inside of him – a struggle to stay at home, reading his books, being comfortable, and the struggle to go out and tramp through the woods and the mountains with a troupe of dwarves and a wizard, eventually meeting elves and men and speaking with a fire-breathing dragon named Smaug the Terrible. Bilbo finds a long-lost magic ring, and the rest is, as they say, history.
Today we celebrate the milestone in Amanda’s life where she, just like Mr. Baggins, begins to contemplate the adventures of the wide world, full of danger and beauty and light and darkness. In many ways, if we could open her soul up and peer inside, we would see the same misgivings that Bilbo felt on that night when he had a house full of dwarves eating his food and singing about Lonely Mountains, dragons, and gold. She, too, wants to go on an adventure, but she, too, loves the hearth and the books and the home she’s lived in for almost 18 years.
Adventures are inconvenient. They make you late for dinner, but that’s the way God designed it. He meant us to leave the safety of our homes and do big and dangerous things for him. Remember David, minding his father’s sheep. If he never went to visit his brothers at the battle lines, he never would have met a giant named Goliath, he never would have understood that God gives strength to those who fight for Him. Paul could have stayed home and been a student of the law. But he met Jesus on the road to Damascus and wound up traveling hundreds of miles from home, visiting places like Philippi, Ephesus, and Rome.
Amanda, life is not always safe. If we truly follow God, we will walk into dangerous places – places like a college philosophy course, where the professor wants to teach you that God is a myth believed by weak people needing a crutch. Dangerous places like a workplace where they tell you to leave your faith at the door and keep your religion to yourself. Life is full of danger for those who follow God. But our Bible tells us that whoever is born of God overcomes the world – that God gives us victory over our fears and over those who would do anything to make us keep our Good News to ourselves.
God throws lots of adventures at us – right now you are thinking of the adventure of college, but following that will, Lord willing, perhaps be the adventure of marriage, the adventure of toddlers, the adventure of teenagers, the adventure of aging parents, and for yourself at some point, the adventure of being aged yourself. The key for all of life’s adventures is to consider them rightly, to ask God constantly what He is trying to teach you, and understanding that all of them together are the adventure of God bringing you at last to your home with Him.
Bilbo came home at last, and the song that he made up on his way ended with this verse:
Roads go ever on and onUnder cloud and under star,Yet feet that wandering have goneTurn at last to home afar.Eyes that fire and sword have seen,and horror in the halls of stoneLook at last on meadows greenAnd trees and hills they long have known.
After our adventures, there is the journey home. We who follow Jesus know that at the end of our adventures, that we, too, will turn our feet to home, and we understand that this world is not where we belong, but there are meadows green and trees and hills that we will see and know that we finally have come home.
Your Mom and I love you – you have done well. There are lots of adventures left, and we’ll be there for as many of them as we can. We pray that you’ll consider your adventures rightly, all part of God’s story for your life. We pray God’s blessings on you as you go.