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Graduation and commencement

By A. Ray Lee


Memories of the past surfaced earlier this month when I received graduation announcements from several proud students who are taking a new step in life. Much has changed with methods of teaching and content taught since I sat in the classroom. Hopefully, the goal of formal education has not changed. Ideally, it is not an end in itself, rather a time of preparation for a fuller life as a commencement service suggests.     

My thoughts go back to a time when, after twenty years in the halls of academia, I was awarded a final diploma from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary as proof I had satisfactorily completed my required studies. That diploma would adorn the wall of my office beside those received along the way from high school and college. I had now earned diplomas in general studies, English, theology, and practical ministries. In addition, I had earned enough credits in the field of human behavior to have a minor in psychology     

Surely by now, I had the answers needed for the challenges in ministry I might encounter as I moved from the classroom into my vocation as a pastor. I declined the invitation of a professor who asked me to remain at the seminary and pursue another degree under his leadership. I would be twenty-five years old in a few months and felt I should get on with my life and ministry.  

When called as pastor to my first church and moved from the sheltered atmosphere of a cloistered campus community into an unfettered environment of the secular world, I soon realized my education was far from complete. As I transitioned in position from receiving instructions under the guidance of others, my practical education intensified as I sought to apply the knowledge gleaned in the classroom to challenges I faced leading congregations as they sought to live out their faith.  

Although I had a wealth of knowledge acquired through study, reading, and copious class notes, I would soon discover acquiring wisdom requires much more than just gathering and storing away information to parrot to others. Formal education may enhance wisdom, but the two are far from synonymous. My journey in leadership would become a life-long quest to develop the wisdom required to properly appropriate knowledge in a practical way.  

The biblical book of Proverbs teaches the value of wisdom in multiple situations one may face in life. To new graduates, be they high school, college, or post-graduate, I urge you to season your knowledge with God-given wisdom. Your life will be richer!