For High Purpose

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If you read our regular eNews, you know that Dawn and I have crossed one of those thresholds in life that our friends have been telling us about. In May, our son Connor graduated from the School of Business here at Cairn. Of course, we were proud, as all parents are at commencement. We experienced the emotion of the day as he and his friends bid farewell to their college days and to one another. It was a special moment for me to hand him his diploma, shake his hand, and celebrate with him the accomplishment of one achievement that will, Lord willing, give way to many more.

This is the way I look at it, both for him and for his fellow graduates: The completion of undergraduate or graduate studies and the earning of a degree is not the high point, but simply a point in their lives. Our purpose is to send them out and onward to live, to do, and to serve. It is no secret around here that while I thoroughly enjoy commencement, I find it bittersweet to see such choice men and women leave us. But it is enlivening to think of what they go on to do. It is inspiring to think that God has used us to make them ready for His use.

It is a blessing to see them develop over the years the qualities that we have in mind when we think about the mission statement’s emphasis on “men and women of character.” We watch many of them be and become tenacious, brave, faithful, humble, wise, and steady.

One of my favorite quotes from President Theodore Roosevelt speaks to this very issue of entering the arena with character. When I first came across it years ago, long before
I taught it to my children, I remember thinking that it was profoundly biblical in its tone. It sounds as though it could have been written by King David or the Apostle Paul. It inspires me because it calls for sacrificial, whole-hearted, and courageous action. These are not days for us to sit back and watch, wait, or worry. These are days for us to boldly press on, serving Christ with joy and enthusiasm. This is my prayer for our students, graduates, and alumni. In this quote, Roosevelt has expressed what I would want each one of them to take hold of:

It is not the critic who counts;
not the man who points out how the
strong man stumbled
or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man
who is actually in the arena,
whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly;
who errs and comes short again
and again;
who knows great enthusiasms,
the great devotions;
who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who, at the best, knows in the end
the triumph of high achievement,
and who, at the worst, if he fails, at
least fails while
so that his place shall never be
with those timid souls
who know neither victory or defeat.

Now is the time for such men and women. This is the kind of people Cairn has been sending out into the church, society, and the world for over a century. This is the kind of people who serve on the faculty and staff. This is the kind of people you will find profiled in the magazine, in this issue and others. What a great thing it is to call people to this kind of life, not in the spirit of patriotism, financial gain, or personal fame, but in service to Christ. This is what we do.

The following is a prayer I found fifteen years ago in The Student Prayerbook (Association Press, 1954). I have shared it with our students many times, and it captures what I hope they themselves will pray:

For High Purpose In Our Life Work
Almighty God, send us out into life, not for cheap things, and not for self, but to do battle for Thy purposes. We have not been trained for beds of ease. At times we dare to ask that Thou wilt lead us to where the struggle is hardest. We ask Thee not for easier tasks, but for strength equal to our tasks. We ask not to be left apart with smooth lives dead at heart. Make real to us, O God, the nobility of work, that we might accept its disciplines as the price which leads in the end to the joy of creation, through Christ.Amen.