I don’t know about you, but God seems to find new ways to stretch me. My latest stretching moment occurred earlier this month. The Honorable Bill Armstrong, former Senator from Colorado and now the president of Colorado Christian University (CCU), invited me to give the commencement address for the graduating class of 2009. Me? I had never done that type of thing before. Weren’t there more qualified people to do the job?
Talk about being outside of my comfort zone. There was no mistake. Bill really wanted me to send the students off with something “inspiring.” Bill is an incredible guy, probably the most upbeat and optimistic individual I’ve ever met.
When May 9th rolled around, I admit I was quite nervous. Scanning the crowd of more than 3,000 expectant faces as they filled the auditorium, it dawned on me that I was playing ball in the big leagues. At one point during the ceremony I was asked to come to the podium where I was presented with an honorary doctorate. I thought I must be dreaming as they draped the academic regalia around my neck. When they started to refer to me as “Dr.” James Daly, that was freaky! My instinct was to look around for someone “distinguished” to appear. The fact that I was now a “Dr.” only compounded the pressure I felt to deliver a great speech.
When it was my turn to charge the students, I said, “Twenty-five years ago, I was in your seat and I can’t remember a single thing that commencement address speaker said.” I told them I know these kinds of speeches are typically boring so we’d keep it short. I kept my promise. I had two main points and spoke for about 13 minutes.
First, I discussed the proverbial “fork in the road.” I told them throughout life they will face moments of decision when they must choose which path to take. The outcome of those choices will impact them, for better or for worse, for the rest of their lives in some cases, so they must choose wisely.
How? By setting aside what they think might be best and then seek God’s wisdom through prayer. If they feel God is leading them to move in a certain direction, heed His voice. This is especially important in their twenties when they don’t have much constraint around them. When faced with a fork in the road, there’s no substitute for God’s wisdom and discernment.
I used my football story from High School as an example how I asked God for wisdom for my future plans and how He answered me. Back then, I was at a fork in the road wondering whether or not to play college football. Recruiters for 1A colleges were courting me. I was a strong quarterback with a bright future. In spite of their interest, I wasn’t sure whether or not college ball was the direction God wanted me to pursue. I asked God if He didn’t want me to play college ball, then break a bone . . . but don’t let it hurt! Boy, did He answer me!
Secondly, I reminded the graduating class that God has a sense of humor. We’re made in His image and part of that image is humor. I believe God gives us humor for several reasons. To be sure, it’s a tool which allows us to overcome difficulties in life. Humor is also an outlet; a means to enjoy life. I encouraged them to look for the humorous things that are happening around them rather than focus on the pressures and trials they’re sure to face.
God’s humor in my life included the names of the key people in my story back when I was first orphaned. There was the Hope family—who were instrumental at a time when I lost both of my parents, and then the Reil’s—the most unreal family I’d ever met. As I told the students, even though the trials in my life just kept coming at me in waves, I always felt the hand of God at work. And, I tapped into the gift of humor to keep me sane.
My final comment was simply this: Each day, wake up, seek Him, live for Him one day at a time, and your life will be full of reward and adventure. Come to think of it, that’s pretty good advice whether or not you’re graduating from college this month.