Sunday, August 4, 2013

Summer 2013 Graduation

What a jarring transition. Eighteen hours after returning from camp, I found myself sitting at graduation for my 33rd and final Institute class. I'm not gonna lie: I cried all day. 

I didn't really cry for this class. There's always a measure of joy in sending out a new class of students to go where God sends them and do what he asks them to do. There was a special joy in sending out this class because of the way they shared their lives with us and they way they stewarded their (collectively) very difficult stories. 

One member of the class had grown up in Boston's foster care system. One had suffered multiple types of abuse at the hands of her biological parents until she ran away from their home early in high school. When students have experienced traumas like this (and ours increasingly have), it's understandable that some of them turn inward and become very self focused. Understandable, but not necessarily helpful for them or for the class.

But these students didn't turn inward. They struggled openly, appropriately and communally with where they had been and where God was taking them. They were humble and vulnerable with each other and with us. And God redeemed much in their lives. So it's very appropriate that my dear colleague Carol named them...


Another dear friend, Ivette, pictured here, got to bless them at the end of graduation and send them out. That was good.

But the day was also hard inasmuch as it represented a season ending. A season of 11 years of sharing life with students. A good season. 

It was a conversation with Sarah Ogden that undid me. Her husband, Dr. Ken Ogden, started FLI back in 1995. The two of them have been actively involved ever since, and most of the 3200 students who have taken part in the program have shared a meal or dessert in their home. They're grieving too, as the program as they envisioned it comes to an end, but her spirit was so sweet and strong. God must have a reason for ending this season too, just as he had a reason for starting it, she said to me.

(I'm crying as I type this.)

I know he does. But that doesn't make it easy. Trying to hold this place, this season, this good thing as loosely as Sarah is as I let it slip away...

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