Below is a copy of the message I gave for the Weir High Baccalaureate, on May 21, in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia. You can hear a podcast of the whole service on the Cove Presbyterian Podbean page.
Let me ask y’all a question. How many of y’all like movies? And what kind are your favorites? Well, I’ll tell you, even though I enjoy almost every kind, I really like the ones with a lot of CGI special effects, because they can do stuff now that would have been impossible when I was your age. Remember, when I was eighteen, a guy in a Godzilla suit stomping around a miniature Tokyo, man, that was a big deal.
And so, because I really like big monsters squishing stuff, about a month ago, I saw Kong: Skull Island. Did any of y’all see that? I’ll tell you, it’s a great date movie, especially if you’re dating a gorilla. Anyway, since I wanted to see it on a big screen but didn’t want to spend a lot of money, I saw the movie all by myself at one those early matinees over in Robinson, and after you know the movie part was over, of course, people started to leave, except for this group right in front of me. You see, as the credits started to roll, they just sat there.
Which kind of left me with a decision to make. You see, my initial plan was to see everything thing in the movie worth seeing but usually that doesn’t include the credits. I mean, I don’t really care who the key grip, best boy, and gaffer were. And so, I was ready to go. But then, I’ve learned that sometimes, after all those people and positions are listed, sometimes there’s a little bit of movie tacked on at the end. And I know that to be true, because I’ve left a couple of movies too soon and missed the set-up for the sequel. And so I figured those people in front of me must have known something, and so I made a huge decision, one that may affect the rest of my life. I decided to stay.
Now, I recognize that right about now you’re either thinking, why is he telling us this stupid story about Kong: Skull Island or am I going to like the food at the senior dinner later? Well, there’s a reason I said what I said, and here it is. Right now, you’re sort of in the same position I was at the end of the movie, only what you’re facing is a lot bigger than Kong and a lot scarier than those skeleton, lizard things he fought.
You see, everybody here, except for this list of folks the principal wants me to talk to after the service you know about what should have been their graduation (You see, for those people the bad news is that there was some confusion about a paper you didn’t turn in as a sophomore, but the good news is that you’ll get back most of your deposit on the cap and gown. I’ll talk to y’all later), but for the rest of y’all, your life is going to change in a couple of weeks. And so, soon you’re going to need to get up and go on with the rest of your life. And I’ll tell you, that’s both exciting and scary. And for that reason, I’ve got three pieces of advice that you might want to follow. And they’re sort of what I did in that theater, and I think it’ll really help you get moving forward.
You see, first, just like I planned to enjoy as much of that movie as I could, right now, all of you can plan to succeed. And I think that applies regardless of what you see yourself doing in future. To be successful, you really need to plan. For example, I know a lot of y’all are going to college. Man, that takes planning, you know, thinking about what classes to take and finding those professors who don’t give term papers and deciding whether or not to drop Statistical Analysis before the middle of the semester. And for those of you who’ll be going to work, that takes planning too, you know, like thinking about what kind of job won’t suck too bad and deciding that spending a couple of years hauling bricks is alright and figuring out how to convince the woman behind the desk that you’re really excited about working in retail. And for those of you who plan to be a burden on your parents, well, that takes planning too. You see, to get where you want to go, you need to punch the address in your phone and go where the little voice tells you to go. And so, if you want to succeed, you need to plan. That’s one.
And second, just like I found out when I left the first Captain America early, it’s important to learn from mistakes. And I’ll tell you, that’s something we sometimes forget. But in my life, I’ve learned a whole lot more from the mistakes I’ve made than the successes I’ve had. As a matter of fact, it would be great to look back on every mistake as a learning experience. For example, when you bomb that first term paper, because you decided to start it the night before and assumed that grammar and spelling don’t count in college, you’ve learned a valuable lesson. And when you’re reprimanded because you assumed that your boss really does want to know how to make the store better or why you had an excellent reason for getting to work late for the third time in ten days, you’ve learned a valuable lesson. And when you find that if you allow mom to do your laundry and to cook your meals and to make your bed and that part of the deal is she’ll continue to treat you like you’re in high school, curfews and all, man, you have learned a valuable lesson. Remember Einstein said that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Take it to the bank, that won’t happen if you learn from your mistakes and that’s two.
And third, as you move forward, I think it’s an excellent idea to trust in God and those whom God has sent into your life, you know, like I did with those folks sitting in front of me in the theater. Now, when I say trust in God, I’m not saying that only to those who are super religious. You see, whether you’re religious or not, you can still trust that there is someone, something greater than you sort of looking after you. Now personally, I believe in God who entered our world as a guy named Jesus and I know it through the Holy Spirit. But, I’ll tell you, if you don’t, you can still trust that there are people who really care about you, and I’m talking about professors who want you not just to pass but to become everything you can be. And I’m talking about employers who believe that they can help you as much as you can help them. And of course, I’m talking about family and friends who are going to love you even when you really screw up, and trust me, the time is going to come when you will. If you take the time to look, you are surrounded by people who will always be in your corner and by a God who couldn’t love you more than he does right now. Trust them and trust him. And that’s three.
Now remember how I was telling you about Kong: Skull Island and how I waited just to see what was coming after the credits. Well, if you’ve seen the movie, you know that was a good idea. And I did the same thing when I saw Get Out, and nothing followed. But with Guardians of Galaxy: Volume Two, well, trust me it was worth the wait. You see, I planned and I learned and I trusted. And I’ll tell you, the same thing can happen to you when you decide to plan for success and to learn from mistakes and to trust in God and others. And believe me, if you decide to do this as you move away from Weir High School, well, you never know what awaits you after the credits.