Graduates: Cross the River Too Hard to Cross

In the middle of the night I go walking in my sleep
From the mountains of faith to a river so deep
I must be looking for something, something sacred I lost
But the river is wide, and it’s too hard to cross.
— “River of Dreams”, Billy Joel and the Blind Boys of Alabama (1993)

My imaginary address to the Class of 2021:

“Congratulations” seems hardly enough to say to you as you sit here today. COVID has forever altered how we live, worship, interact, work and play. I want to focus on the difficulties of worship and action, ora et labora,as you prepare to enter the world.

You may be familiar with the pop artist Billy Joel. He is a multiple Grammy Award winner, a multitalented composer and performer. He’s done it all. But, is he happy with anything? Having gone through younger adulthood listening to his material, I found him to be perpetually angry, angry at institutions, people, relationships. A few tender songs demonstrated the chink in that armor, but most times, it was full speed ahead against something or someone.

“River of Dreams”, a hit from 1993, has Joel musing, in a dream, about standing along a river he says is too hard to cross. He looks at the other side to “finally find out what I’ve been looking for..” Joel wants to, but he can’t … and nothing changes.

You can be sure that, throughout your life, you will be on your own shore, looking across to the other side, where you’re certain the answer to your issue lies. What is your fear holding you back from crossing through the currents may pull you one way or another? What is the best thing that will happen if you decide to cross? The worst? God will guide you. You will know what to do.

And, you are never alone. Ever.

Your parents and the other adults in your life can attest to those dark times when a decision had to be made that might forever change a personal or a family trajectory. Decision making is one of those adult duties that must be addressed. Crossing that river might mean taking on stormy, wave churning conditions.. but it has to be done.

Give your doubts and fears to Him.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Armed with faith, hope, and love, you will safely make your way to “the other side” on your journey to the Shining City On The Hill.

God bless you and keep you, all the days of your life.

Michael Throop