The early thunder of the heart penetrated the body before the break of dawn. There was something stirring under the surface, a sense of urgency. There was something to share from deep within me, a story to unfold from the layers of my inner being. My story has slipped through the fingers in snippets, but suddenly, there was an ache in my body to free more of my story.
There is more to seep through.
There is more that can soak through those fingers.
There is more that can touch those palms purposed for reaching.
There is more that can fill those hands, to pour more life into the lives of others.
This morning I rose and registered a memory, a moment in time, when I rose in front of an arena. Today, my arena is a gathering with my grandparents; That day, my arena was the gathering of students, teachers, friends, family, and familiar faces from my schooling. Today, I feel the need to rise up again, to speak again, to share again, the speech I gave at the end of my secondary education; That day, I felt that same need to rise up, to speak, to share…
So here she is, the speech that started something, that stirred something in me. Here she is, the speech that set me free from the arena of achievement – the success and striving that set me on that stage – to the sword of hope that brought truth to why we educate and empower in the first place.
Thank you all for the honour of being here today.
What a privilege to be amongst a community that prides itself on being a place of education, peace, care, and nurture. This school slogan has been repeated to us at every assembly and chapel in the past, yet not until you break down the significance of this mission statement… do you realise what a blessing this school really is.
What is education?
What does it mean to you?
Is it a set of rules and homework? A place to be social? A place to escape?
I wonder how many of you are here today because you’re expected to be here. Some of you might see education as an expectation placed on you by your parents. I want to share with you the reason why I have never taken school for granted, and the reason why you shouldn’t either:
When I was in Cambodia just over a year ago, the children I met were lucky if they could access the school in their local orphanage. This ‘school’ was underneath a verandah, where the ‘teacher’ was a man from the village who hadn’t been to school himself, and who’d only learnt English from tourists.
For the children in this country,
and many developing nations like it,
education is a weapon of survival.
My challenge for each and everyone of you, year twelves especially, is to see school as a sword of hope. When you go to classes, talk with teachers, hand-in assignments… imagine that you are building a sword which will help you fight the life-battles that are ahead.
The peace, care, and nurture that comes with the routine of school life, surrounded by parents and teachers, is the calm before the storm of the ‘real world’, where you can define your weapons before taking those first stabs into the unknown.
There will be chips to your sword, refining of your weapon, as you work out where you will fight. There will also be new carvings to your sword along the way – as this sword of hope is not limited to school itself. Life is an endless encounter with education and learning, an ongoing opportunity to swing a sword of hope on the beckoning battlefield.
I didn’t get here today because I listened to someone speak on a stage each year, telling me how I should study for x amount of hours each night, have balance in my life by doing exercise and hobbies, and keep my sanity by not giving up social events on the weekends.
There is not one formula that I can give you to help you succeed in life.
Because the reality is – life is not about success.
Life is a journey that we all are travelling on, and each and every one of us are heading in different directions. Already you’ve taken a different route from the person next to you, and it’s not my place to tell you what path you should take.
If you want to know how I got to where I am today:
I’m here because of a God who never gave up on me,
and who won’t ever give up on you.
For you year twelves, the absolute truth, is that last year, I sacrificed a lot as the perfectionist that I am to achieve A+’s on every assignment and report card I got. Now, I look back to this time last year, and I see myself sitting in the exact position all of you are in today.
If you ever wonder what the point of school is, if it’s worth it… it is.
Francis Chan said: “Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter”. Whether you ‘succeed’ in school, or whether you’re just looking to pass, all that really matters is whether you are willing to fight for the things that DO really matter in life.
Most of what we have here on earth today is temporary.
A year from now, you won’t even remember a word I’ve said, and you won’t remember any feeling you have towards the friends/family you may or may not be getting along with at the moment.
I guess my pearl of wisdom to you all is that:
No matter what sword of hope you can establish during your education, don’t ever forget that each and every one of you has a purpose in life, and even if you don’t feel like you’re equipped with the right weapons to get you there, hold on – because no warrior stands back or retreats, instead, a warrior charges forward with determination and hope no matter the battleground.
This year, lets be warriors together – don’t let the failures, successes, numbers or grades detract from who you are – instead, be yourself, and lets charge toward the beckoning battlefield.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
– excerpt from the speech, “Citizenship In A Republic” by Theodore Roosevelt
“We must fight for the life God intends for us,
which is to say, we must fight for our heart,
for it is the wellspring of that life within us.”
– John Eldredge
“FOR I, THE LORD YOUR GOD,
HOLD YOUR RIGHT HAND;
IT IS I WHO SAY TO YOU,
“FEAR NOT, I AM THE
ONE WHO HELPS YOU.”
“NEVER WILL I LEAVE YOU,
NEVER WILL I FORSAKE YOU”
For Christian sword-bearers, read: Matthew 10:32-39, Hebrews 4:12, and Ephesians 6:10-20.