Dear Class of 2016,
I want to tell you about three sentences that have changed my life. When I graduated two years ago, I’ll admit they seemed pretty cliché. Not anymore.
The story starts halfway through my freshman year, on one of those cool fall Michigan nights when the moon lit up the sky and the breeze was just strong enough to make a sweatshirt feel cozy.
On a walk with a close friend, I mulled veering from my half-hearted plan to become a high school math teacher, instead to dive into the not-so-glamorous field of American politics. The conversation quickly zeroed in on the elusive idea of what we are supposed to do with our lives.
My friend responded with some then-cliché, now-transformative words, borrowed from Frederick Buechner: “Go where your great passion meets the world’s great need.”
Six years later, I’m working on a team in Washington, D.C. that’s shaping the race for President of the United States. And let me tell you, all of that “calling” stuff isn’t so cliché out here.
For every day that I leave work thinking about my “great passion” for what I do, there’s another day that I’m overcome by the “great need” in the world. Politics and news can be an ugly business, and odds are it can feel like you work in one too. Social work, food service, marketing, church life, finance – take your pick.
As the editor of a daily newspaper and a politician, I think Abraham Kuyper can relate. But I think this kept him going: Kuyper wrote about how not a single square inch exists over which Christ doesn’t cry “Mine!” And Kuyper labored in several of those not-so-fun square inches.
But Christ doesn’t reluctantly cry “Mine?” over the ugly parts of life. John Calvin puts this spin on it: “There is no work, however vile or sordid, that does not glisten before God.”
I’ll admit, especially in my job, some days I’m still not sure I buy this. And I’m guessing some of you have those moments too. But there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t know the kingdom is growing out here. And that work certainly “glistens” – no matter the square inch.
So what’s our rallying cry? Paul puts it this way in Philippians: “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Christ redeemed us for the purpose of redeeming the world. It’s not always pretty. There are days when the “great need” will overwhelm the “great passion.”
It’s not always easy chasing after whichever field God points you toward, especially if the words “vile” or “sordid” sometimes apply.
But we can’t retreat. Here’s the bottom line: If we aren’t the ones shaping these spheres, someone else is.
So go where your great passion meets the world’s great need. There is no work, however vile or sordid, that does not glisten before God. And press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of you.
We’ve got lots of kingdom building to do out here. Class of 2016, glad you’re on the team.
Ryan Struyk (’14) graduated from Calvin with majors in political science and mathematics. He currently covers the 2016 elections for abc News in Washington. He’s also done political polling in New York City and reported on the Idaho state legislature for the Associated Press in Boise. In his free time, Ryan enjoys talking about inferential statistics, music theory, and his beloved Detroit Tigers.