Tomorrow – June 22 -, Biblical Seminary will hold its 2013 graduation. Faculty, MA, MDiv, and DMin students will put on their funny-looking garb, discuss the meaning of the regalia, make sure their hats are on right, and then file in to the auditorium. Friends and family will take pictures and cheer as their loved one crosses the stage to receive a diploma. A select few will receive special awards. All will listen to student testimonies of how their education changed their life. All will listen to an invited speaker give a commencement address.

It is a glorious moment. But I suspect many feel that graduations are silly and meaningless. Speakers may talk too long and still not say much of value. The pomp and circumstance is a bit much, you think. The silly regalia harkens back to some era long since meaningless. In an hour or so, we’ll put it all away and go back to everyday life.

So, what is so important about graduation?

  1. It is an opportunity to celebrate. If you are the graduate, you get a few hours to celebrate with your peers the completion of years of hard work, tears, and successes. Even better, you get to celebrate those who sacrificed much so you could get that degree. Just as weddings aren’t really about the bride and groom, so graduations ought to be more about those who made your degree possible. If you are family of the graduate, then it is an opportunity to cheer this new graduate on in the next phase of life.
  2. It is an opportunity to remember. Graduates cram lots of information in their heads over the course of a degree program. Most graduate students want to learn, even more want to get good grades. Thus, the focus can become about completing assignments and finishing well. But graduation ceremonies remind us that good grades are FAR from the most important part of education. The ceremonies remind us why we entered the program in the first place. We remember our ministry goals. We remember our callings. We remember how our character has been refined. We remember that millions in the world have never had this opportunity and so we rejoice in God’s kindness to us. That diploma on your wall? It is a “stone of remembrance” that God parted the waters for you to walk through to the other side.
  3. It is an opportunity to evaluate. Celebrations take a pause from everyday life. Graduation celebrations provide an opportunity to review what priorities may need to change. What did you stop doing for the season of graduate school that now needs to be restarted? What bad habits might need some attention? What neglected relationships might need some repair? What arrogances did you develop along with your increased knowledge? In one month (hey, maybe even in one day!) you won’t remember what the speaker had to say at graduation. But, if you forget to look in mirror (James 1), you may be in danger of damaging important relationships.

Sadly, I will miss this year’s graduation due to a conflict with an airline ticket to Rwanda. I will miss celebrating with my counseling students the completion of a very rigorous two years of study. I will miss sharing those last goodbyes and a final discussion about the path God appears to be leading them on. But, somewhere over Ethiopia, I will be celebrating, along with a great cloud of witnesses, the race marked out for my students!

Phil Monroe is Professor of Counseling & Psychologyand Director of the Masters of Arts in Counseling Program at Biblical. He also directs Biblical’s new trauma recovery project. You can find his personal blog at

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