There are no guarantees in life, so learn and risk everything

Saturday, May 16, 2009

If there ever was a passage of Scripture embedded in the hearts of every student, it is Ecclesiastes 12:12. Even if the student has never read Scripture, this verse -- "Be careful, for writing books is endless, and much study wears you out" -- is burned into their minds.

The mental work of learning, studying and writing never ends. The single mother who goes back to school and finishes a degree crosses the stage at graduation only to face the exam of making the life that she has wanted. The tradesman apprentices under a master builder and passes the exam only to find himself studying problems he didn't even know about. There is always something to study and a lifetime to pick up books, pens and brushes.

One of the many observations within Ecclesiastes is that in life, and consequently in graduations, there are no guarantees. In fact, the writer of Ecclesiastes observes that most of the time life seems cruelly unfair. The man who risks all to flee his native country and later becomes a pioneering surgeon sits in a nursing home, unable to walk, next to the man who scrubbed windows for a living and now dances with the widows.

Graduation rewards those who completed the required academic task but is never accompanied with guarantees. There are no guarantees, so learn and risk everything.

One cannot read verse 12 without the summary contained in verse 13, "The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." Value of personhood is not based upon a parchment hanging on the wall. No matter what was accomplished at the final exam, the important part is whether you lived upon the foundation of faith in God. It seems disappointing, but it isn't.

Congratulations to this year's graduates. Congratulations to the parents and grandparents who pushed them through. Congratulations to the students who are now ready to move on from knowledge to learning.

Rob Hurtgen is a husband, father, minister and writer. Read more from him at

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