Yesterday was graduation at Dordt College. Over 300 students sat up on the stage, waiting for their diploma, so they could leave. Graduation day has a strange aura about it. Professors are still grading, but most are glad the end has come. Parents and family are wandering around campus trying to catch a glimpse of what their child has been up to for the past 4 years. Seniors? They’re ready to go. They’re excited, maybe some are a bit sad, but most are ready to move on to the next stage of life. There’s a freedom that comes with graduation; life is full of possibilities and potential. Some students fret about not have a job when they cross of the stage, others are more than happy to take the next few months and “walk the earth.” One group of students bought an old black bus they plan to use to road trip to California. They’ve converted it to run on a combination of diesel fuel and cooking oil both to save money and the environment. Another student is going to go to the “holy” land. No class credit, no tour groups – just himself, a walking stick, and the places that Jesus walked. Me? I’m making my own trek… to California. My friend has to be at a wedding and asked if I wanted to ride along. No responsibilities…no speaking or research…just me, my buddy, and the open road.
Within the Christian tradition there’s a strange tension between being a nomadic, pilgrim, people, and being a people of a specific place. Some take the “we’re just passing through” approach to life, holding places and experiences loosely, while others put down roots, holding tightly to a specific “place.” More and more I’ve come to appreciate both – it seems that a healthy life is a constant oscillation between the two. There’s excitement in experiencing new people and new places and the enriching perspective that comes with seeing how other people live. At the same time there’s something beautiful about inhabiting a place in such a way that you come to know it’s nooks and crannies. These are places that form and shape our character as we take on their good and bad characteristics. I tend to have little patience for newcomers who crab and moan about Sioux Center, Iowa. It’s not that there isn’t stuff to complain about but they haven’t earned the right to complain about it yet. They haven’t lived here long enough to experience the people, the places, and the way of life that makes Sioux Center a unique place (just as every place is unique.) That being said, I can’t wait to hit the road and get away from Sioux Center’s idiosyncrasies. This Thursday I’ll be excited for the possibilities of the new places I’m going to see. Give it a week… and I’ll be more than ready to come back home.
So here’s to college students who are ready to go, who are ready to break out of here and take hold of the possibilities life has to offer. And here’s to them finding a place to inhabit, work to do, and a community of people they can do it all with.