Every year at Commencement, the graduating class and faculty select three students—one from each degree program—to offer words of blessing and calling. Here, we’re sharing the full video and text of the speech by Sarah Steinke (MA in Counseling Psychology), about celebrating the continuous faithful choice to serve others.. You can also view the speeches from Stephanie Johnson, (Master of Divinity), and Cameron Carter, MA in Theology & Culture.
I want to know what happens next. I want to be certain that what I’ve chosen, and what im choosing is going to pay off, is the right thing to do. Part of me absolutely wants this path to be level and free of pot-holes.
And I get to listen to this part a lot because this part is very loud.
But a quieter and more pervasive voice tells me to take a breath and step. Not knowing if the ground will truly rise up to meet me, because it might not. And still, I choose to step.
The poet John O’Donahue says: “I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.”
When the path is not level, when I find more ambiguity than certitude, when I lose my words, I turn towards poetry. Maybe you don’t know that you know poetry, but frankly our days are full of the stuff. A knowing beyond and below words. How do we begin to express birdsong, or the taste of a lovers tears? The color and light behind the eyes. A shift in barometric pressure right before a storm. How the leaves turn belly-up in the wind. Let alone a God who is present in all of these.
Our Bodies know. Words can help us remember and integrate the shock and shook of surprise but they cannot fully express the knowing our bodies carry. Poetry gets us closer, poetry changes the way we listen, because poetry is not based on the absolutes that fear would have us reach for.
Theologian Yvonne Gabares says “poetry orients us in the language of relatedness, which is intuitive and approximate and inclusive.” Poetry roots me in my story so I can begin to wonder about yours. With that in mind, and to honor this sacred time of not knowing, or at least not knowing that we know.
I wrote something like a benediction, and if any of this resonates within you, then it is meant for you too. It’s called, “Sighting.”
God’s gaze on you, now, is absolute favor
God’s gaze on you is honor
Her gaze is love without exception
And maybe right now you feel this with more particularity
God’s gaze on you is delight
And if you’re like me, it’s hard to stay in this awareness
If you’re like me you want some-one’s gaze, you want someone to tell you that you are the chosen one
You want to hear from someone farther along this road, that not only is this the right road, but also you are uniquely gifted for the journey, the work you are about to do, and you are about to do great things
I have to tell you, no one chose you
Someone did not choose you
The world did not choose you to save it
You fell in love
You fell in love
The world in all its beauty and pain is where you met God
And you fell in love and decided to stay
You chose yourself
You chose to finally turn toward you
To consider what you’ve done
What you’ve left undone
You’ve chosen to begin to find the parts of you that hid so long ago
What courage you had to stay alive
What courage you have to be found
You have seen what harm can do
And you have harmed
And you won’t let harm be the end of the story because you smashed the form
And from the pieces you are making something new
No the world did not choose you, to save it, to seek reconciliation, healing, you chose
You chose to wonder at its strange stories through your own
To put your blood and sweat and groaning to the world
To this work of earth
To this work that asks you to stay close to you, even as you move out into the world
You chose you
You could have slept through it all, and maybe you did a little
But you chose to wake, and to keep waking, and you chose to wake in your bodies
You chose to reclaim your shapes for yourself
You chose to make some noise
You chose it all
As you choose now
In the words of the poet, “what will you do with your one wild and precious life.”
God’s gaze on you, anticipation.
And you, you bold and bent people, you are loved.