This post features our 2012 valedictorian, Maggie Miller. The following is the speech she delivered at CCS’s graduation. 

When I started writing my speech, I began to write across the top, “Valedictorian Speech,” and realized that I couldn’t spell “Valedictorian.” Not the most promising start. So, I’m not the best public speaker, and I obviously can’t spell to save my life, but these are my last words to you and I do hope that they mean something.

I can’t tell you how strange a feeling this is. Very conflicting emotions up here–like when you stay up all night to get to the ending of a book, and then find out that you don’t want it to end. I want to graduate and go to college and live my life, but I also want to stay home, be sheltered, and stay where I’m comfortable. I suppose what I really want, more than anything: is to have both.

Thank God He doesn’t always give us what we want.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Graduation day. This day marks the end of our time here at Cary Christian School, and the beginning of our independence. But despite how bittersweet saying good-bye is, this is a good day.

This is the day where we confidently stride across the stage towards independence, towards degrees and career and marriage and family. As we accept our diplomas, we will be accepting that (whether we like it or not) change has come. But as we walk towards those degrees and marriages and families, we also walk towards the unknown, towards the temptations, trials, sufferings, and persecutions that we will encounter in college and in life.  And we’ll be walking into that fire without our parents or teachers. Graduation is when we go out into the world on our own.

Independence. This is what I keep coming back to. Something that in the grand scheme of things is relatively unknown to us at this point. Terrifying and exciting at the same time. Decisions.  Solitude. Independence. The idea is so daunting, so appealing, so incredibly strange. It’s what we’ve been waiting for. It’s so close we can reach out and touch it, but we’re suddenly not sure if we want to. We don’t know how to deal with it, what to think of it.

When I first found out that I would have to speak to you all today, it was Easter weekend. After one of the services, some of the lyrics to a song came back to me: “Oh to see my name written in the wounds/ for through Your suffering I am free/ death is crushed to death, life is mine to live/ won through your selfless love.” And the phrase that kept resonating in my head was “life is mine to live.” What an incredible gift, freedom from sin, freedom to live our own lives. Independence is a gift from God, won through Christ’s selfless love.

We’ve been counting down the days until graduation; we’ve been counting down the days until independence. And today is when all the board, phone, and computer countdowns read zero. Soon—very, very soon—life will be ours to live. But in the freedom and uncertainty of the moment, we can’t forget: who gave us life; who created life; who is life; who died for our sins and rose on the third day and lives so that we can have life. And He will never leave us, despite how independent our lives get.

Independence is what graduations are famous for. It’s famous for its “unknown-ness,” its element of uncertainty. And yes, independence is exciting, but it’s not at all the best part. The best part is the greatest simply because it is certain. Psalm 63:3 says, “Because Your loving-kindness is better than life, my lips will praise You.” The love of the Lord is better than life. The most exciting thing about graduation, the greatest thing about any day, is that God loves us and has carefully and lovingly planned every detail of our lives for our good and His glory. Praise God.

And this amazing God, who crushed death to death and gave us life to live did not give us life without a purpose. That purpose being to glorify Him, on this day and in all the days to come.

So really, not much has changed. Yes, as we walk across the stage, we walk towards independence and towards what may seem to be the unknown: new school, new environment, new classes, and new professors. But we don’t leave God behind. His plan and His purpose for us do not change with a few steps across a stage, a weird hat and a piece of paper. With this unwavering foundation, with this Rock of Ages, what trials can’t we face? No power of hell, no scheme of man, no college hardships to come, can ever pluck us from His hand.

So: as we grow more and more independent as the years, or days, or minutes go on, let us become more dependent on God, our unchanging Lord whose loving-kindness is better than life. Let us live our lives, and let us remember that it’s because of His mercy that they are ours to live. Let us resist whatever the world throws at us, knowing that even though we’re just setting off, even though we’re fresh out of high school and on our own for the first time, we are not alone. We are on our own, but not alone.

And if we remember that, and we remember why that is, we don’t walk towards the unknown. We walk towards a further relationship with our savior. We walk towards victory in Jesus.