Graduation Gameplan
“We must not attempt to control God’s actions. We must not count the stages in the journey he would have us make. We must not desire a clear perception of our advance along the road, nor know precisely where we are on the way of holiness.”


Step 1: Turn the Tassel with Teresa

“Pray that I have clarity,” a man named John Kavanaugh implored Mother Teresa after traveling thousands of miles to Calcutta. In 1975, Kavanaugh was discerning what to do with the rest of his life. He believed a year of service in India would offer him answers. So when Mother Teresa asked him how she could pray for him, clarity was his desperate request.

“No, I will not do that,” she replied.

Imagine having a future canonized saint turn down your prayer request! Naturally, Kavanaugh wanted to clarify why she had. Mother explained, “It is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.” Surprised, Kavanaugh asked why God wouldn’t want him to have this one thing that Mother Teresa always seemed to have herself. Amused, she replied, “I have never had clarity. What I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.”


“I want you to have that complete confidence that God won’t let us down. Take him at his word and seek first the kingdom of heaven, and all else will be added on.”


Step 2: Turn the Tassel with Trust

You may find yourself in Kavanaugh’s shoes during graduation season. In a single day of anticipating the next chapter of your life, you could go from being in high spirits to low spirits, feel both determination and apprehension, look forward to change yet simultaneously wish things could stay the same. With all kinds of uncertainties ahead, clarity would be a welcome graduation present.

But if we only seek clarity during pivotal seasons in our lives, it can be tough to enjoy the current road to our next adventure. Whenever we grasp at understanding for our own sake, we risk sidelining the Holy Spirit, who has more creative, wondrous plans in mind for us than we could ever have in mind for ourselves. (See Genesis 3 and Jeremiah 29:11.)

Christians baffle the world by trading clarity for God’s promises; but it’s a sweet trade because uncertainty about the future can always be transformed into the “perfect peace” that comes from trusting Him. (Isaiah 26:3) The more we trust God with our future, the more He can bless it.

So you may have drawn up the ultimate gameplan (plus several backup plans) for graduation and beyond. Or you may feel paralyzed by the mere thought of stepping out into the wide world of adulthood. Regardless of your circumstances, trust in God is the only reassurance you could really have that you’re on the right track; but it’s also the only reassurance you need.


“If we really fully belong to God, then we must be at his disposal and trust in him. We must never be preoccupied with the future. There is no reason to be so. God is there.”


Step 3: Turn the Tassel without Trepidation

Another quote attributed to St. Teresa is, “God does not require that we be successful, only that we be faithful.” For saying this, she might’ve been the last person many institutions would’ve chosen to give a graduation speech.

Graduates are entering a world that measures their worth based on their successes. This is a lie — that our grades, our accomplishments, and our skills determine our value. If we believe it, then at the first sign of “failure” we’ll be tempted to look at our past with regret, and at our future with concern. We may feel trapped in our present, too trepid to do anything whatsoever.

God delights in our motivation to set healthy goals and work to accomplish them. Saint Teresa isn’t denying this. She’s merely reminding us to keep the priority goal in mind: heaven. Everything we do in this lifetime should help lead us there. True success in our earthly life is to know, love, and serve God to the best of our ability, whether the world thinks this is an achievement or not. May this truth make you fearless.


“God will not ask how many books we have read, how many miracles we have worked, but whether we have done our best for the love of him… therefore each one of our actions done with and for and through Jesus Christ is a great success.”


Step 4: Turn the Tassel Together

Placing our trust, identity, and future in the Lord’s loving hands doesn’t mean we become passive bystanders. It means the opposite! Growth requires change, and change requires decision-making. To truly discern is to allow God to lead this process.

We do the will of God by including Him in our plans, by praying, “Lord, I don’t want to do this without You.” If we invite Jesus to the start and into the center of whatever we pursue (and allow Him to remain there) — so long as it is an objectively good pursuit — we don’t have to worry about whether we made the “right” choice. Through God’s blessing it becomes what we were meant to do all along. (John 15:12; 1 Corinthians 10:31)

Congratulations, graduates! Youth leaders everywhere are praying for you! Remember…


“Together we can do something beautiful for God.”

– Your totally trusting, intimidatingly intrepid, Nobel Peace Prize-winning companion for graduation, St. Teresa of Calcutta