Another school year has come to a close. School buses will no longer add time to morning commutes, the laughs and screams of elementary school children during recess silence, and retail stores and restaurants will be staffed with young students on summer break.

For many, this time of year also includes commencement ceremonies and graduation parties, celebrating students who completed degree requirements. High school and college students alike are often bright-eyed and excited for the next chapters in their lives. And, rightly so.

However, sometimes expectations clash with reality. Think of graduation as the introduction to a chapter of refinement. In the 15th century, graduation actually meant, “A tempering, a refining of something to a certain degree.”

Consider refining silver. In its natural state, silver is often found combined with copper or lead and has dross on the surface. To obtain refined, marketable silver, it must first go through fire. Refining silver requires vigilance, patience, and diligence, and with the proper application, the fire removes impurities, resulting in a shiny, beautiful product.

Similarly, graduates will walk through fiery circumstances. While not pleasant at the time, those circumstances can remove impurities, forge a person’s character, and make him or her stronger. Moreover, with the proper attitude, that fire can properly mold, teach invaluable lessons, and produce a bountiful harvest both for the individual and others.

So, for graduates – whether graduating high school, college, or some other season of life – I hope you:

  1. Choose humility over pride, live by your convictions, and love others
  2. Choose to run from the tempting pitfalls this world offers
  3. Make choices based on wisdom and understanding, rather than on fear, insecurity, misplaced identity or desire for other’s approval

And most of all, I challenge you to embrace the fiery circumstances, knowing they are not meant to set you ablaze, but rather to refine you into a better you.