Seniors, this is it. It’s the last shopping period of our college careers. In four months is Commencement, and after that we’ll be done with this place (except for those lucky few who go to grad school at Harvard, but let’s not talk about them). So what are we going to do with our last semester? Is there a distinctively Christian way to be a senior? If we believe that we have been purposefully called to be students, then is there some calling in this stage of our lives as students, as well?
First, now more than ever is the time for us to reach out to underclassmen. I don’t want to be hyperbolic, but we truly have gathered wisdom in our four and a half years here. We’ve made a lot of mistakes, had a lot of triumphs, and understand a lot more about the way the world works since we arrived, wide-eyed, at Harvard. So invest time in your underclassmen friends this semester; plant ideas that might grow into their own rich experiences. One semester is not too short a time to make an effect on someone’s life.
Second, this is a time for us to really enjoy being a student. If you haven’t already, read Stanley Hauerwas’s “Go With God: An open letter to young Christians on their way to college,” published in a recent issue in First Things. It’s written to students just starting out, but I think that it can still be valuable to us as we finish college. Hauerwas insists that being a student isn’t just one activity to choose among many; it is a vocation, in the same way that the priesthood or academia or a particular branch of commerce can be a vocation (albeit a somewhat more temporary one). If God has placed us as students now, then being good students is a spiritual responsibility. By good student I don’t mean as student who earns good grades, but one who is intellectually curious, committed to learning, genuinely working to integrate all branches of knowledge into a cohesive whole. We cannot let this slide during our last semester.
Lastly, this is our time to rejoice. I was a talking with a friend about being a second-semester senior, and he reminded me that, as a Christian, my celebration should be something distinctive. Of course, every senior is going to celebrate all during this semester; but we aren’t just rejoicing over finishing an accomplishment, or passing through a societal ritual, or becoming adults. We’re rejoicing because we are completing one part of a sacred calling that has been given to us. We’re rejoicing because during our four years here we have honed our minds and trained our characters, so that we are four years closer to being the renewed human beings that God wants us to be. And, of course, we’re rejoicing because our strong God has brought us through all the dangers and pitfalls that mark this time of life, just as he always does. There is so much for us to celebrate during this last semester of our college careers. Let us rejoice and be glad, for the Lord is good.