My son graduated, but I got schooled

A lot can happen in just 24 hours. I’m going to be brutally honest and completely transparent about something I’m learning the hard way.

Last night my son graduated from high school. The past months have been filled with anticipation of this momentous occasion, but nothing about this was surprising. As I sat in a crowd of thousands, I was reminded that as a highly educated man, I take a lot of things for granted.

The reality is that from the time my children were born, I’ve never really even considered the possibility that they wouldn’t finish high school. It was always a given. It was merely the next in a series of accomplishments I expected to see fulfilled.

Consequently, I wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic as many others gathered at North Little Rock’s Verizon Arena. Sure, I took some pictures. And I applauded when appropriate. But for our family, this ceremony was simply a formality — something that has to happen in order to move to the next rung on the social ladder.

When Jackson started high school as a ninth-grader, there were around 700 in his class. Last night’s commencement was for around 500 graduates. You do the math. Was the ceremony a little rowdier than I’m accustomed to? Yes. Were there expletives shouted here and there? Yes. Did some of the attendees behave as though they’d never been to such an event before? Again, yes. And in the moment it frustrated me greatly.

Just 24 hours later though, I’m frustrated that I was frustrated. I’m sad that I somehow took a special occasion and made it about me — my values, my story, my preferences.

More than that, I’m heartbroken for the nearly 200 students we lost over the course of four years — many in their senior year. Why couldn’t they finish what they started? The easy narrative is to say they just didn’t care. But I don’t believe that, not for a minute.

I believe that what happened to them is the same thing that happens to thousands upon thousands of urban high school students all over America: poverty, unemployment, pregnancy, physical sickness, addiction, and mental illness. And maybe it wasn’t even something that happened to the students themselves. Just one of these issues in any given family can wreak havoc on the whole family system. How many families struggle with more than one of these issues at any given point in time?

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Baptism: crossing a line

We baptized someone at church on Sunday. It’s a simple act of obedience that takes place at Christian churches all over the world. In fact, it’s so commonplace that perhaps we don’t fully grasp its value, its power.

Now, I realize that there are different ways and traditions of baptism. I’m not here to debate those. Rather, I’d like to offer some thoughts — from a global and a personal perspective — about why baptism is a worthy undertaking for anyone who claims faith in Christ.

Writing for Christianity Today, Nik Ripken, one of the world’s premier experts on Christian persecution, shines a light on the significance of baptism in places like Somalia and Iran, where Islam is the predominant religion. In his piece, Ripken describes the excuses curious Muslims offer when they are caught actively exploring Christianity.

For example, Bible study can be explained as simply research to strengthen arguments for Islam. But Muslims view baptism as the line at which one leaves the Islamic faith and becomes a bona fide member of the Christian community. Baptism is the act that demonstrates the ultimate betrayal of one faith and wholehearted allegiance to another.

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