Jeff Knapp: Don’t Sleep Through The Celebration

Posted by in Brotherhood | May 30, 2013


Editor’s Note: Jeff has attended a lot of graduations over the years as the President at IRON and FIRE Ministries. He’s been in the stands cheering, and in the pictures congratulating, but never had the opportunity to turn the tassel himself. Until now. And while reflecting on what it means to graduate, with his own graduation from seminary looming, Jeff gives us some real insight into the value of celebration.

Graduation isn’t a day or an event; it’s a life-long process.

On Wednesday, I will walk in my own graduation ceremony for the very first time. My story includes a lot of bumps, bruises, scrapes, and screw-ups. One of those was dropping out of college 19 years ago.

I left high school early, by passing the G.E.D. test, and enrolled in college with a 10th grade education. I had only been in college for six weeks when I realized that walking out on the college placement exam to go to a Steely Dan concert turned out to be a really poor choice. What seemed like a great idea at the time severely affected my class assignments and landed me in the most remedial classes available. Since I failed the math portion of the exam, I was stuck in a math class that began with an introduction to the decimal point. On top of that, I had the wild idea that a full time job at Waffle House, making money now, was better than having to wait four years to move out of my mom’s house.

My idea of graduation at that time was very low; I viewed it as unimportant. I wanted to grow up fast and get on with living my life my way. I didn’t view the ceremony or the achievement as valuable, in fact, I thought I was pretty slick cause I would be making money and living the grown up life way earlier than my peers.

Fast-forward almost 20 years, and the guy who used to think graduating was a joke is now walking around the house in a cap and gown acting like he’s the guest of honor. I think I might have slept in them if they didn’t get wrinkled in the process.

Now I get it. Now I understand the value of the graduation celebration. It’s not about the pomp and circumstance or the important speakers. It’s not about the turning of the tassel, the receiving of the diploma or the pleasing of the parents. No, it’s about the journey that it took to arrive here. It’s about the hardships you endured and the little victories that kept you going. It’s about the lessons learned outside of class as much as the ones learned inside. This graduation ceremony is more about the last 19 years than it is about anything I did in class.

Yes, I worked my tail off to get that degree and I can’t wait to receive it. But this ceremony is about all the graduations I forgot to celebrate over the last 36 years.

Life is a series of graduations. The question is, “Were you invited, or did you sleep through the celebration?” Nothing in life that is endured and learned is void of a reason to celebrate. A very good friend of mine once explained how we often train and fight really well, but do a terrible job of resting and celebrating.

The truth is, you’ve graduated from the school of hard knocks; your G.P.A. has awarded you the honor of valedictorian; and you’ve earned a master’s degree in being you. Have you ever celebrated it? Do you consider making it through the terrible twos without strangling your kids, a graduation worth celebrating? How about getting your driver’s license, or losing 20 pounds? Do you view persevering through a failed adoption or a divorce as celebration-worthy?

What you believe about the things you’ve graduated from will greatly determine whether you celebrate them or just skip out early and go to Waffle House. Don’t quit and miss hearing your name called. You’ve worked too hard to miss the celebration.

Everything in your life has joined together to knit you into an amazing specimen of value and purpose. You have graduated from some of the hardest schools in the world. Do you understand how valuable your experiences have made you to the ones who have yet to walk that path?

I do.
Jeff Knapp

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