A Personal Letter to Every 2017 College Graduate: And One More Thing

This is dedicated to you the graduate, the graduate you love, the recent grad or the soon to be grad. Since it's Notre Dame graduation weekend, I got inspired cause I live close to the place I was blessed to graduate from twice! Wasn't expecting to write this, but when God give you the words, you write them down!! Enjoy....

Go you. Congratulations.

Blaze new trails

Follow those dreams.

Ignite the fire inside you and shine your light like the stars in the sky. 

And one more thing....this is something you aren't going to hear when they confer your diploma. It's also something you probably never heard in college nor will hear out in the real world. Yes, everyone will have advice from career paths to when to get married, where to live and how to start a family. It'll be like you just came out of the nest and everyone wants to show you the way. But the truth is, you will have to learn the hard way, by walking through it all yourself. Things won't work out as you plan, no matter how hard you plan it. The job you thought was your dream job will turn out to be not so good. The boy you fell for, won't be the right fit. The time you wanted to be having kids will be different than what you plan. 

Here is all I can say. Your plan isn't the best plan because God has got an even better plan. So if it gets rough and you wonder why you are on a detour, trust that God must be up to something good. Even if it sucks, you'll be amazed by how he'll work it out.

The best advice I can give you is what I wish I knew even before I got to college. It's this:

You do not have to find validation or approval in the world, in people, in social media or career. If you look in the right place, you will find it in one thing and one thing only.

God.

Don't think this is a religious lecture or some kind of punishment. This is an effort to help you see where you want your compass to point. Have it point towards God. Keep your eyes on Him. So when you get detoured or things don't go as planned, you have a plan and that's to focus on Him. He will be your anchor, your rock, your steady hand, your source of comfort and strength, your provider, your healer, your hope and your Savior. More than anyone you will meet out in the real world, He will be right there if you let Him be. But you've got to ask for His help.

I grew up in a Catholic family - went to Catholic school from kindergarten to graduate school and never learned this one simple thing:

God wants more than anything to have a relationship with you. He doesn't want to just be in the box of religion. He wants to be with us in ev-e-ry-thing. I spent way too long thinking, "He's up there, not down here," and I've talked to too many high school and college students who feel that. But you have to know He is right there with you fighting for you, cheering for you, shepherding you, and loving on you like no partner or parent ever could. 

I had to go to rough lengths to find this out. But when I did, my life was filled with joy that I could never have gotten from 2 degrees from Notre Dame, a "good upbringing" or a sweet job like the one I had at the White House. None of those things could fill me the way God can.

So when you are out in the world, and you come against something that doesn't fill you or breaks your heart deeply, go to God. He'll be standing there waiting with open arms ready to tell you like He told me, "I love you and I forgive you for everything that you've been carrying. Now walk with me." 

One more thing. If you still aren't tuning into this God concept, why don't you try tuning into something that helped me? And in many ways still does today. 

That is, know that you have a Healthy Voice. This Healthy Voice is for you, loves you, speaks life to you, encourages you, comforts you and will never hurt you. It will take work to hear it and listen to it, but I can tell you right now it is there. You may doubt it, but you DO, indeed, have a Healthy Voice. I like to consider God to be mine (and it took a long time to get there) but you may have a different path.

The reason it's so important is because a long time ago the enemy planted a seed called your Unhealthy Voice. It's probably already hurt you a lot and it will try to hurt you for the rest of your life. We all have one. The point is, as you grow in life you will get sick of it and want to hear your Healthy Voice. That is good. That means you are ready to receive what you deserve which is all the love in the world. You may have to work through it to defeat that Unhealthy Voice but it will be worth it because it's like an octopus that has tentacles into many areas of our life depending on our makeup and experience. Whatever you do, don't let it defeat you. 

Make a choice to listen to your Healthy Voice, even if it takes help from others. There is no shame in reaching out for help. Why? Because despite the fact that we live in a world where you should look like you are put together and don't need help, the God who created us DESIGNED us to seek help from Him and others. So when you feel like reaching out, know that God (or your Healthy Voice) is right there, arms wide open, ready to reach out His right hand. 

"Don't be afraid for I am with you. Don't be discouraged for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my righteous right hand."- Isaiah 41:10 NLT

Godspeed graduate! May God be with you always!