As I mentioned in the last post, our youngest daughter asked her older sister to give the "graduation address" at her service on Sunday. And as I mentioned, that address was filled with all sorts of "fandom" references (Avengers, Star Trek, Doctor Who, LotR, etc.). And while it was fun, I thought it was also quite profound. And so with her permission, I'm going to post the text of her address here. It's a bit long for a blog post, but I encourage you to take the time and read it all. While it's directed at our daughter and somewhat personal to her, it also has some great advice for all of us. (Also, for those other geeks out there, it'll be fun looking for all the references!) So, here's LoriAnn:
Apologies in advance – this is going to be a very geeky speech.
Mawwidge. Mawwidge is what bwings us togetheh… –
Oh wait. Wrong speech. Sorry
And of course, with great power comes…bills, crises, decisions and—of course—responsibility.
For those of you who may not know, Katrina is a big fan of the Marvel comics universe—along with the rest of our family, of course. One of the biggest Marvel franchises right now is that of the Avengers—superheroes with various abilities sworn to protect Earth and the human race from all threats.
So Katrina, I ask you to suspend your disbelief for a second and play along.
Katrina Weldon, I’m here to talk to you about the Avengers Initiative.
Each Marvel Avenger has a special talent or trait that makes them valuable. From the Hulk’s strength to Tony Stark’s brains to Captain America’s heart, every one of Earth’s mightiest heroes contributes something to the fight. This is why each one was chosen – to work together as a team.
Unfortunately, that sort of single-focused talent isn’t the norm in the every day world. Earth’s mightiest heroes are all well and good, but those of us normal mortals without billionaire bank accounts or gamma radiation exposure have to spread ourselves out a bit. We have to learn to find some of the same qualities displayed by the superheroes in our own, mundane, normal lives.
Fortunately, no one is expecting you to turn into a giant green rage monster, save New York from aliens, or even make sure your little brother doesn’t turn into a crazy psychopath. It’s too late for that last one anyway.
On the other hand, everyone is expecting things from you – and more than that, you ought to be expecting some things from yourself. Things in which you can learn lessons from some of the Avengers.
For example, what comes to mind when you first think of Steve Rogers—better known as Captain America? …Well, the first thing is probably his iconic costume—and while I wouldn’t mind if you suddenly decided to dress every day in patriotic spandex armor, because I am a very supporting sister, it probably wouldn’t go over well in general.
Besides the uniform though—one of the things that makes Captain America, Captain America is his weapon…or really, his lack of a weapon. When the creators of the character invented him, they didn’t give him a super-mega-zillion-power-magazine gun. They gave him a shield, a symbol of protection. Because in the end, Cap is a protector.
I’m sure you’re very familiar with this verse, but just for kicks, let’s read it: from Ephesians 6, verses 10 and following:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.”
Now, I would really prefer if you didn’t go out and become a super-soldier and fight Nazis or Hydra agents or whatever. However, I do challenge you to examine what you are willing to protect. What do you see as worth protecting? Your honor—are you faithful to your promises? Are you willing to protect your family and friends? Do you protect your heart—that which you are encouraged to “guard above all else, for it is the wellspring of life,” as the Teacher from Proverbs tells us? Are you faithful in your walk with Christ—the higher authority, the commander you are sworn to follow?
Though there may not be secret organizations like Hydra in the world (or there might be, I’m not saying one way or the other) there are things that will threaten what you love. There will be outside threats in the form of everything from unpaid bills to crime and violence. There will be inside threats like doubt and stress and anger.
These things will threaten what you love. They will threaten your heart, your worldview, and your family and friends.
But like Captain America, you have a shield. Yours isn’t made out of a Vibranium-steel alloy and it’s not painted bright colors, and it won’t fly back to you like some kind of low-flying death Frisbee. Your shield is a shield of faith, to extinguish the flaming darts of doubt, fear, unhappiness, worry, hatred, and anything else that would steal the joy God has for you.
Now, God has given you other gifts too. Besides the ones that he gives to all his followers, he has blessed you with certain abilities and talents. Who is the most brilliantly gifted Avenger you know? I’ll give you a hint: his ego is bigger than New York City. I’m of course speaking of Tony Stark—genius billionaire inventor better known as Iron Man.
Stark is a scientific wizard. He can look at a machine and tell you how it works, how to fix it, and how he would have invented it better. Or sooner. Or bigger and with more flashing lights. Tony Stark is a genius.
He’s also an egomaniac. There’s a lot of complicated backstory that we won’t get into here, but suffice it to say that Stark’s successes have left him with an extremely inflated opinion of himself. He’s brilliant, and he knows it.
Your talents lie in different directions, obviously, unless you have a supersuit you’re not telling me about. However, I don’t think it’s overstating things to say that God has blessed you generously in many areas. You are a gifted musician, a writer with a lot of promise, and you’ve shown in the guitar and music theory classes that you teach that you have a knack there as well. To say nothing of your organizational abilities, your flair with jewelry design, and your rapier wit.
You are a talented and blessed young woman.
Now don’t let it go to your head.
Unlike Tony Stark, don’t let your successes and your gifts give you an inflated notion of yourself. While I personally think you’re fantastic, there’s a difference between being confident in your abilities and being so caught up in who you are that you forget who gave you those abilities to begin with.
There’s also the other end of the spectrum, however—that which Jesus warns against in Matthew 25 in the parable of the talents. While you must remain humble in the gifts God has given you, neither can you hide them away. He has given you these gifts to use in his service. Just as Iron Man has to put aside his selfish ambitions (in theory) to work with the team, you must be able to put your higher cause first, and see all of your abilities and talents as tools to fulfill the mission that God has given you in this world. What your master has given you, use for his glory—his, not your own. There’s nothing wrong in being famous, or being wealthy, or writing a bestselling book and appearing on talk shows every morning. The goal, though, is to give God the glory—whatever you do, eating, sleeping, writing, singing, teaching…whatever. To God be the glory, forever, and ever, amen.
So we’ve covered two of the Avengers—Captain America, as a symbol of what it is to protect what you love and stand firm against the attacks of the enemy, and Iron Man as a sort of cautionary tale regarding your gifts and abilities. Lastly, we’ll look at one hero that, frankly, most people don’t know about.
His name is Clint Barton—better known as Hawkeye. Before the Avengers movie franchise came out, most casual fans knew little to nothing about this rather obscure hero. We don’t need to go into his story at all—those who care probably already know, and those who don’t know probably don’t really care to know. But just so everyone’s on the same page, Hawkeye is an extreme marksman. A sniper with a bow and arrow, he never seems to run out of ammunition, and can hit nearly anything he aims at.
And that’s the key—he’s aiming.
All the gifts and talents in the world are worthless if you don’t have a goal to aim toward. But no goal is going to come and lay down at your feet either. You have to be willing to go after it. You can’t just hold the bow and arrow, and know you could hit the target—you have to actually put the effort into drawing, aiming, and firing. And if you miss the first time… Well, you’ve probably got enough ammunition to take out an entire invading alien force, so just load up and shoot again.
I’m not suggesting that you have to know exactly what you want to do with your life right now. Theodore Roosevelt was in his 20s before he knew where he was going with his life. Dante was in his 30s when he wrote his famous Divine Comedy. You aren’t allowed to run for president until you’re at least 35. Don’t rush in to something just because you feel like you are supposed to be doing something. In a world where we consistently want things faster, easier, sooner, now, we’ve forgotten what it is to wait patiently on the Lord to reveal his plans to us.
But when he does reveal that plan—when he gives you a passion for something, or an opportunity to learn, or a chance to grow, or a direction to start walking—you must be willing to follow that path. Even if it seems hard, even if people tell you that can’t possibly be what God wants for you, even if you have to sacrifice for it—follow through to the bulls-eye.
You will have times when you’re uncertain about where God is leading you. College? What major? What classes? Job? What career? Relationships? Up until now, all of your decisions have mostly been made for you; either by circumstances or by those God has made caretakers in your life. Now begins the time when you must begin choosing the targets yourself—and you will have to learn how to follow God’s leading as you make decisions.
It’s not as easy as people make it sound. Often there will be times when you are called to make a choice and every way looks good. You can’t see ahead—and who knows? Either way may be good. Either way can lead to blessing. If you are consistently seeking after God, and trusting him to keep your aim true, you will be in his will.
Psalm 37 tells us to “Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” This verse can be read two ways—either as “God will fulfill the desires your heart has”, or “God will shape your desires as you delight in him.” It’s a two way street—make glorifying God and finding your joy in him your goal, and he will give you the earthly goals to follow. The psalm continues, “Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.”
Katrina, frankly, high school graduation isn’t that big a thing. It’s not like, overnight, your life will change. Like you’ll go from being a punky teen to a mature and responsible adult just because you’re no longer a high-school student. Heck—I just graduated college and there are times that I still feel like a kid. Of course, there's no point being grown up if you can't be childish sometimes, right?
My point is, though, that this is a process. You don’t get to go out and fight with the Avengers the day after you get recruited. There’s training to be done. Muscles to be worked, ideas to test, smaller targets to hit. But the decisions begin now.
You’re still in the Shire, but the next step you take will be the furthest you’ve ever been from home.
You’re launching out into the final frontier—and, to be honest, you’re still wearing a red shirt. Don’t go on any away missions any time soon.
You’re being called into an adventure, and you have to go—even if it’s inconvenient. Even if it’s dangerous.
The time has come to put on your backpack, throw out your roadmap, and trust that God will guide you into your future.
He’s given you your shield. He’s given you your talents. And he has your goals already in mind—you may already know some of them.
So now, Katrina, I ask you:
Are you ready to suit up?