Recently, my wife and I attended the graduation of our daughter from Patrick Henry Community College. It was a bittersweet day as we had watched all three of our girls march across the stage to get their diplomas and then watched them again two weeks later as they crossed the Bassett stage to get their high school diplomas.

I told my wife as we left, "Well we are done with this for at least 20 years or longer," reasoning that the next time we attended a graduation would be when we would see our grandchildren cross that threshold. 

There are so many thoughts and emotions you would like to be able to share with your child at a time like that. You would like to tell them not to make the same mistakes you had made, or to realize that little failures in one's young life are not grand failures, nor is it the end of the world. You would like to be able to spare them the trials and the hardships of their first lost love, their first fender bender, their first job firing or a host of other "firsts" that you know will hurt them and cause them pain.

But as most of the country ponders and attends graduations from  high school and college this month, it is good to reflect that you and I don't always thrive on the successes in life but we rise on the bumps! 

It is the loss of a first love that makes you more committed when you do find Mr. or Ms. Right. It is the failure in a job that builds character when you get another and perhaps better opportunity.

How we, as parents, would like to spare our children all this pain, but the pain we went through at their age got us to where we are today. C. S. Lewis wrote that pain "...is God's megaphone." It is His way of shouting that something is terribly wrong and then, if we listen to His counsel and wisdom from His Word, we will learn how to do better the next time when we are faced with a similar situation. Pain teaches us not to avoid a situation, but how to navigate through it the next time it comes along.

I remember practicing my high school graduation nearly 100 years ago it seems! Our principal had been the vice principal at the middle school in the county, and so the class of 1984 had known him for six years. He told us we would always have a special place in his life because we were the only kids he had known that long. But then he went on to say this practice and when we walked across the line of graduation night would likely be the last time we would ever see each other again.

We were young. We had made promises in the thick of the battle of young adulthood that we would always be there for each other. We could not fathom a time when our small circle of friends would not be together, so we really didn't believe him. But there is something life changing about walking across that small stage and into the realities of a larger world.

Our eldest daughter, whenever she is frustrated, says, "I've done enough adulting today!"

Unfortunately, when one walks across that line, the world of an adult is opened big and wide, with all the privileges and all the pains that accompany it.

I suppose, if I had any words of wisdom for our youngest daughter and other graduates, I would quote from the Bible and the apostle Paul. As much as you might like to stay where you now are and cherish the memories, you have made the wisest and best you can likely do is to "...forget those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13.

It's not easy to do, and it will take time to say goodbye to what has gone before you to this point. But that is what commencement means. We leave behind the life we have known in order to commence or begin a bigger, larger one from which there is no turning back.

The tassel will soon will have been turned, and the book of your life will continue to be written. Make sure you write a book that is pleasing not only to yourself, but to the Lord as you strive to put away what is behind and reach forward to what lies ahead.

Jim Pence is the pastor at Pleasant Grove Christian Church in Martinsville.