All the pieces of the puzzle had been laid out and fit together. Three years of honors courses. Twelve years of homework and studying and tests. More ballgames and laughs and projects and tears than could be counted. The work was complete, and it was the night of my high school graduation.
I was decked out: white skirt, white top, white cap and gown. Plenty of make-up and comfortable heels. As I made the trek across damp grass for our commencement ceremony, I scanned the sea of faces in the crowd. Did he make it? A handsome smile from behind the bleachers caught my glance. He cast me a small wave and walked hurriedly in, and I let out the breath I'd been holding. He was here.
We had been dating for four years, and just four months before, he'd put a ring on my finger and asked me to be his wife. But now? Things were rockier than ever. We were young and not sure what we wanted. And I didn't wear a ring with my cap and gown. But he was here. And I was finished with high school! Nothing was going to dampen my spirits on this night.
I and my 49 classmates, brothers and sisters actually, made our way to the 50-yard line. We took our seats and shamelessly wore our grins like earned badges of honor. A few kids pulled out the bottles of bubbles they had hidden in their gowns. Like kindergarteners they blew them over the heads of each other. I couldn't wipe the smile off my face if I tried. I didn't know graduation would be this fun.
Finally, it was my turn. I stood up from my seat, took my place at the podium, and prepared to give my valedictory address. A goal I'd set for myself in the sixth grade had come to fruition, and for the first and only time in my life, I had the full attention of my entire class, as well as the majority of the town. There was only one thing I knew to say:
"Jesus loves you. No matter what you've ever done or ever will do, He loves you."
I said more too, I'm sure, but I can't remember what it was. (Ten years, apparently, is quite a while.) I remember I spoke slowly so I could hear my words on top of the delayed echo in the microphone. And my stomach did backflips wondering if my Jesus-talk would be well-received.
I'll never forget mingling with friends and family on the field after the ceremony and hearing the football coach tell my dad. "That was perfect. She said exactly what needed to be said."
Again, I let out a sigh of relief. And I praised God for His faithfulness in my life.
Every night of my high school years, I had laid in bed and prayed that God would help me be a light in my school. Then I got up the next day and faced gossip and bullying and drama and depression and wondered whether a city on a hill really cannot be hidden. Because I felt bogged down, to say the least.
So it was humbling and joyous to think that I had finally taken full advantage of the platform God had given me. Whether I had always been a light in the daily darkness, I didn't know. But that night, I had approximately four minutes in the spotlight, and I did my best to reflect it back on Him.
Over the next year, all the frayed and ragged edges of my life got tied up into neat, pretty bows. I went off to college and made some of the best friends I've ever had. I grew closer to my parents and closed the chapter of high school angst we had shared. I received a message (on this new-fangled thing called Facebook) from a high school classmate who apologized for making my life a living... And I got re-engaged and married to the love of my life, with whom I'll soon celebrate nine years of marriage.
Over and over, God has proven Himself faithful. Looking back, I can see His hand in every trial, valley, and ounce of teenage drama. And though I was far from perfect, I'm thankful I served Him as faithfully as I knew how. And when it mattered most, on the night I'll remember forever, I was able to give Him a small bit of the glory He really deserves.