What Did You Expect After Graduation?

Graduation season has just passed. From preschool to grad school, commencement speeches filled with passion and inspiration were delivered to students finishing one season and launching into another. There were challenges given that “you can do anything you set your mind to.” To “dream big and follow your dreams.” And reminders that “you can change the world!”

These phrases may indeed fuel some to pursuits of power and influence. But for others, those phrases may be overwhelming. Instead of lighting a fire, big dreaming and world changing may drop like a heavy weight.

Maybe you’re one of those weighed-down people. Or maybe you’re a few or even several years past a high school or college graduation and those dreams you dreamt and changes you wanted to make just haven’t happened. You’re discouraged. Doubtful. Or maybe you know one of these discouraged, doubtful women.

As I interact with young women in this “post-commencement” season, I often hear about expectations. These women have a lot of specific and often rather lofty expectations for themselves in all areas of life. Personal. Career. Ministry. Service.

In some cases, the woman has set her own expectations. But often I find those expectations have been shaped by family, friends, and the world around her—the big-dreaming and world-changing kind of expectations those commencement speakers talked about. And while she may be taking some steps toward those dreams, if there haven’t been a lot of big accomplishments or changes, she thinks she’s failing.

Maybe this is you. Or maybe, like me, you know someone who is feeling this way. So I’d like to offer a new kind of commencement. A challenge to a new perspective and purpose through these three basic questions . . .

Where Is Your Worth?

Let’s start with where’s it’s not. Your worth is not in your abilities, gifts, talents, positions, or accomplishments. Instead, it is believing and living in light of the truth that God created all people and marked them with His own image (Gen. 1:27).

Bearing God’s image brings certain worth to every single human life. Your worth is even clearer when you look to Christ. When you see a holy God who made Himself low, taking on the image of a man, living a sinless life, then taking the punishment for your sin on the cross (Phil. 2:6–8)—when you, by faith, believe that truth, your worth should be dramatically clear. That is where you should find your worth.

While the things you do you are valuable and may be the ways God displays Himself through you, you cannot find your worth in those things. Because if you didn’t have a single ability, gift, talent, position, or accomplishment, you would still have worth and value. Your worth does not lie in what you have done, are doing, or will do. Your worth lies in the One who created you and gave Himself for you.

What Is Your Focus?

The only sure focus is God and His glory. Of course, saying or knowing that you should be focused on God’s purposes for His glory is vastly easier than living that out in your everyday thoughts, words, feelings, and actions. That is certainly what I have found to be true in nearly every season of life.

But what I have also learned is that I need constant, consistent reminders to make God my focus. The number one way I do that is through constant, consistent time in His Word. As I have made reading, studying, and meditating on God’s Word a priority every day, that Word and the Holy Spirit are renewing my mind and my focus.

As I learn more about God’s character, His covenant-keeping ways, His mercy and love, and the examples of and instructions to be people who live in response, the consistency of my focus on Him is greater. Definitely not perfect, but greater. Because that’s what God’s Word does! It renews and reconfigures our minds and hearts. So if your focus is on yourself (or desiring others to focus on you), on other people, or on the circumstances of life, take steps to make God your focus through prayer and through His Word.

How Will You Shape Your Expectations and Define Success?

If your worth is found in the fact that you are an image-bearer of God and—if you are a follower of Christ—you are sealed with the Holy Spirit and your focus is on God and His glory, then what you say and do should put Him on display. That should be the expectation-setter and success-measure.

Is God displayed? Is God glorified? When displaying and glorifying God is both our expectation and measure of success, then other kinds of results are simply ways that display and glory come. The results aren’t the only goal. Each step of the journey toward a result can be a way God is displayed and glorified, too. And though having someone notice or encourage you along the way is energizing, ask the Lord to allow you to rest in His notice and be filled by His encouragement.

The weight of personal or any other kind of human expectations can be cast aside when you grasp that God’s glory is the goal and His power in you in sufficient for each step toward that goal. If you realize that each step—any conversation, interaction, or task—can bring God glory and you grasp that it’s God’s enabling power in you that is making that step possible, then you’re throwing off even more weight. So your career, your personal life, your service, the ways you minister are not the end-goals. God’s glory is the goal, and those things and the journey to those things can combine to bring that glory and put Him on display.

Paul instructs and displays this truth in 2 Corinthians 3. The chapter begins with Paul explaining that he isn’t striving to commend himself to the Corinthians, but rather that his goal is for Christ to be displayed and glorified both through his life and his readers’ lives. Let this truth from verses 4–5 be both your guide and weight-lifter:

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God.

So to the woman in the post-commencement season and to the women around her, walk toward this truth. Know that God gives any intelligence, knowledge, or skill you have and He can use it in all kinds of ways to build His kingdom and renown.

The goals you set and the expectations you have need a foundation in God and the truth of His Word. Then God’s glory and God displayed can happen in tiny moments, big accomplishments, and everything in-between. Set your perspective and purpose to Christ’s . . .

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb. 12:1–2).

Did you discover God’s Truth today?

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About the Author

Heidi Jo Fulk

Heidi Jo Fulk

Heidi Jo desires to know and live God’s Word, then teach and challenge other women to do the same. Heidi and her husband, Dan, live in Michigan with their four children and she leads women's ministries at her church.

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