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We’d been planning the surprise for weeks—I’d fly in to Detroit from Germany, spend the night in a motel, then take two more flights to Manchester, NH, where I’d surprise my nephew, Corbin, the day before his graduation from high school.  Mission accomplished.  I sneaked into the entryway of his home and, when he heard my voice, he came careening out of the living room and launched himself at me, all smiles and surprise.  I do love to make a memorable entrance!

His graduation ceremony was much different from the ones I was used to at Black Forest Academy.  The caps and gowns were similar, so were the strains of “Pomp and Circumstance,” but the main speaker ended his comments with a resounding, “The end goal is this: be happy.  And to be happy, do what makes YOU proud.”  I looked at the sea of red and white robes seated in front of me and wondered how many of them would waste their lives following that prescription.

So I spent a couple of days pondering what I might have said to my nephew, had I been honored enough to have spoken at his graduation.  Though these thoughts are aimed at Corbster, they may hold concepts that apply to more than just him.
1.  Keep yourself healthy enough to be able to give to others: that includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.  There have been statements made in the Christian community, both verbal and implied, that you’re only living selflessly if your sacrifices and focus on others are life-draining and all-consuming.  Trust me—after a lifetime on the mission field, I can assure you that intentionally “feeding” one’s own inner resources is the only means through which our lives can have a consistent, long-term, positive effect on the world around us.  Even Jesus, at the height of His earthbound mission, had to take time apart to reconnect with His father and refuel His limited human health and energy.  Live healthily, nurture your spirit, seek Truth and the Truth-Giver, and then…

2.  Make sure there is at least one area in your life in which you’re investing in others.  Number one, it keeps us humble.  It’s hard to be self-absorbed when we’re aware of the needs around us and taking steps to meet some of them.  Number two, it gives value to those other aspects of our lives, those efforts that are normally only compensated with money, status or stability.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with making money—even lots of it!  But there is an added reward to being able to pay some of that income forward.  A dollar is a dollar.  But a dollar invested in helping the needy, financing important projects or building something insubstantial that has eternal value?  That dollar is truly precious and the satisfaction you’ll receive from investing it for good will far surpass the pride you’ll feel for money in the bank.

3.  Invest in God.  In secular terms, that would read, “recognize the existence of a higher power”!  But this isn’t Spaulding High School.  This is Aunt Michele’s words to her amazing, overcoming nephew.  And I’ll say it clearly: our God wants our lives to be as fulfilling and rewarding as they can possibly be, and to that end, He clearly gives us a plan of attack.  The Plan is simple: seek Him first.  Once you’ve “found” Him, once you understand His calling on your life and the incredible gifts that are yours through Him, everything you do, say, hope, love and dream will have the potential to change the world in small and large ways.  And in following His lead—in grieving for our world’s brokenness and tending to the wounds of the injured and investing in ways that benefit those who need Him and may not even know Him—in following His lead out of a spirit of unflagging faith and love for your Father, you will find your own life enriched, enhanced and so very worth living!

This is not to say that a life turned toward His goals will be free of pain and challenge.  There is absolutely no way around those—not in this world.  But if you know that your life has been lived with meaning and if it has been used to bring you to a deeper understanding of who He is and how He loves, you’ll be well armed to face the obstacles ahead.

I am so, so proud of you, Corbin.  In your 18 years, you have been challenged in ways few others ever are, and you have overcome unimaginable hurdles through God-given resilience, dogged determination, the amazing support of your parents, and the love and assistance of a community of friends and teachers who have loved you to this milestone.  Your life—the meaty, meaningful part of life—is just beginning!  And my prayer for you is that your “end goal” will not be merely to “be happy by doing what makes you proud,” but that you will find fulfillment through using a good chunk of your existence to make God proud and to love others as He loves us.  Only then will Life hold its fullest measure of purpose and reward.
I love you, Corbster!
Aunt Michèle


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