While the nurture of a mother shapes your character, the words of a father are the most powerful fuel to your soul. At the time of your high school graduation, a dad’s blessing is important. Without a dad at my high school graduation, I wondered what my place in life would become. Little did I know that all throughout my life, a heavenly father has been speaking to me.
As a senior in high school I was part of a music group that had already won national awards my sophomore and junior years. We sang vocal jazz music and met at the ungodly hour of 6:30 AM every morning. Our teacher was the sweetest drill sergeant. She smiled and nurtured while driving and fearlessly drilling us to perfection. Her mentorship of our group was passionate. She believed in what she was doing—both for herself and a sense of altruism. After all, my school’s neighborhood was pretty humble.
I practiced all the time. In fact, this strained friendships and caused heavy teasing at home, too. “You can never make a living as a musician…why don’t you spend your time on something more productive?” Something in me said to keep on going. Part of that was a good dose of stubbornness. Part of it just seemed natural.
The day arrived for graduation. Our music group was going to sing at the ceremony the song “Graduation Day” originally performed by The Four Freshman in the 1950s. I had the task of arranging it and spent a good amount of weeks writing out the score and preparing it for our vocal jazz group.
When the actual graduation ceremony began, I felt numb in the moment. I did not like high school. I had some nice friends, but it was me in high school that I did not like. I hated my insecurity, my naiveté, and my world inside me that no one seemed to have chance to break into and understand. A shy kid that looked at his shoes is how I remember myself in high school. I would be a hermit if not for my music.
The students filed in an orderly fashion. The first row filled up with the scholars and student body dignitaries. The first row, even though they wore the same red or white robes stood out with medals, ribbons and chords around their necks. When they got up to speak, people listened. Class President. Valedictorian. The list went on, albeit a small list.
After the traditional procession I left the rows of grads and took the stage with my vocal jazz singing mates—all six of us. We crooned the tight harmonies of “Graduation Day” seeing grandmas and even some dads wipe their wet eyes. It was as if we had connected several generations with the singing of this simple song. Almost everyone had a high school graduation.
I scanned the crowded auditorium to find my mom. I don’t think I found her since I was really looking for my dad. Was he there? My dad died a horrible death the year before of cancer. Yeah, he was my step dad, but he was the only dad I knew and I wanted him to see me sing in front of thousands of people and walk the platform to receive my diploma. I could always count on my quiet and gentle dad to give me that look that no one else could give. It is a look of acceptance. But, coming from a dad it is like streams of pure energy that fire up the soul of a young man. I would never hear his words or see those eyes on this day.
I went back to the group of graduates, climbing the rows of risers and staging. There were about 500 or so in my class. So, it was easy to feel lost and understandable that people in the crowd would not likely recognize my face once back in the mass of students. “Who am I, anyway?” I thought.
The principle of the school got up after the valedictorian spoke. He thanked her and the other star students that came before her and then went on to thank me. That’s right. Me. He talked about how I wrote the arrangement to “Graduation Day” and all that and about how I got a scholarship to some school for musicians. In fact, he talked about me longer than any of those front row people.
It was in that moment that I realized that it was God speaking to me. And, he was speaking to me as a dad. He wanted to let me know that he was at my graduation and that he was proud of me. He made me a musician and that was just fine by him. In fact, he wanted others to be proud of me, too. He was almost grandstanding about me. Why? Why me?
This was not the first, nor would this be last time God spoke to me as a dad. If only I would learn to pay more attention, I would hear the words my soul so longingly needs to hear that only a loving father can give.