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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Paradox of Celebration: Jack, Duke, and a pause to be grateful

Duke 2019 Graduation was an Ebenezer of a weekend for us: hither by thy grace we've come.  This strong, faithful, intelligent human being began his life in the most vulnerable of ways, at a time of war and flight. His childhood held challenges from significant illness and injury, grief and loss, encounters with extreme poverty and the constant exclusion of being the outsider. And yet, his life also shouts the mercy of God in solid opportunities, loving community, voracious learning, protection and grace. So that celebration holds the first paradox, two disparate but true things: the last 21 years were not an uninterrupted march of glory . . . . and yet all in all, they have been a gift. We would not change them, and we marvel at the kindness of God to bring us to this point.

And in celebration, there is the related paradox of effort and blessing. Hard work and perseverance pushed Jack on for sure, yet many others do the same; so we attest to the truth of "work out your salvation because God works in you."  Only by grace did he reach this point of speaking as the Senior Class President of the Engineering School (listen here beginning minute 33); or of being a Gates Cambridge Scholar and one of eight featured graduates. We could never have dreamed of all the open doors and honors he has found in these four years.  So we clap for his late nights and ambitious attempts, and we sing praise for the thousandfold undeserved return on every investment.

And I was reminded of a third paradox as we celebrated with my family.  My youngest was graduating this weekend with accolades from one of the best universities in America. My sister's youngest will be even more excited next year as he graduates from high school. Micah has Down Syndrome, an extra chromosome that has made his story very different from Jack's. There is no reason Jack's and Micah's stories should be so divergent and I'm not going to generate one. In this paradox I can merely affirm that both young men, and both families, take what has been given with grace and thankfulness and use it in the best way they can. Both love their families and love Jesus, and most importantly both will be invited to the banquet of eternity with equal joy. God does not place more value on scholarships or GPA's than on joy and connection, which is hard to remember when in the midst of pomp and circumstance.

From throwing together a grill-out for the eight families of the boys who shared adjacent student-housing apartments, to baccalaureate with the excellent message from Dr. Luke Powery, to the receptions and parties, to hearing a final concert from the men's acapella group, to hanging out with family, to dinners, to speeches and ceremonies. . . . this past weekend was well worth 21 years and thousands of miles to reach. Grateful to and for Jack Myhre; grateful for paradox that binds us into truth from both directions; grateful for the hope of seeing where this path leads in the next 21 years.

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