Who knows how many hundreds of times I’ve done it? Whatever the number is, add another one to the total. I did it again the other day while mowing the grass in the back yard. Clean-up had not been comprehensive. I didn’t know that until I felt the tell-tale muddy squish under my left heel. Yep, Sully the wonder-dog had visited this place sometime earlier in the day. Now I was left – again – with a messy, smelly shoe. Clean-up time. I’ve had lots and lots of practice over the years. Our family always had dogs. If I only had a dollar for every time I sat on the front step using a tooth-pick and popsicle stick to clear the foul-smelling canine waste from the little nooks and crannies in my sneaker. For you older dog-loving guys out there, remember how the soles of those Chuck Taylor’s were oh-so time consuming and difficult to clean?
Our household is no different than any other I know. Nobody wants the job of systematically searching the grass with a shovel in one hand and a bucket in the other. It stinks. . . .literally and figuratively!
With my son Nate’s high school graduation rapidly approaching, I’ve been wondering why when we hate the piles of stinky stuff so much, do we dispense so much foul-smelling advice cooked up with the stuff as its’ only ingredient, then wrap it up in flowery paper or words to pass on to our kids as they move from high school to the next phase of life?
Exhibit A arrived in the mail yesterday in the form of the Things Remembered Graduation 2010 catalog of “engraved gifts to capture this bright moment.” You remember Things Remembered don’t you? They have kiosks of some kind in most malls where you can have anything at all engraved on anything at all. As I leafed through the 36-page catalog I saw all sorts of things featuring all sorts of sample engraved messages. Some of the messages were good ones, including a host of congratulatory phrases. After all, graduation from high school is an accomplishment to celebrate. But so many of the messages I read were nothing but “skubalon.”
Skubalon is the greek word Paul used in Philippians 3:8 when he wrote, “I count everything else rubbish compared to knowing Christ Jesus.” Skubalon is a strong word that more literally means “dung.” I stepped in a pile of skubalon just the other day.
One message read, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Really? Skubalon. How about this one? . . . “Danielle, go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.” Skubalon. . . again. “Believe you are the best, and you will be.” Skubalon. “Listen to what you hear. Follow your dreams. Reach for the stars and know you can do ANYTHING.” Wow. . . . that’s a big pile right there. I love the musical snow globe on the back cover that reads, “To be a star, you must shine your own light and follow your own path.” Okay, I’m not even sure what that means. Sadly, there will be hundreds of graduation speeches delivered over the coming weeks that express similar nebulous sentiments that graduates will be encouaged to adopt and pursue in order to experience success and fulfillment in life. I heard those same speeches thirty-some years ago. Life in God’s world and reading God’s Word have exposed the smelliness of those piles of wisdom that we so readily believe. Could it be that we lament what happens to our Christian kids when they head off to college because we allowed them to supplement their spiritual diet with skubalon?
Perhaps we should more aggressively point out the skubalon in their path. For example, I want my kids to know that in America, you can’t become anything you want to be if you put your mind to it. I also want them to know that God has uniquely gifted each one, that He has a plan for their lives, and that all of life is skubalon compared to knowing and living for Him.
I love what my friends Don Optiz and Derek Melleby (Director of our College Transition Initiative here at CPYU) say in the opening chapter of their book for graduating seniors, The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness:
Every student begins college wide-eyed, full of expectations. Some dream of the paradise of earthly delights, and others of the rewards of high schievement. Both of these dreams are ultimately disappointing, and it doesn’t take too much soul-searching for students to discover that they want something more. Of course, the yearning for deep meaning and for lasting purpose will never be discovered in the co-curriculum or even in the curriculum itself. The real answer is relational, personal, and more real than anything that can be imagined. The real answer is Jesus Christ. He is the one who is inviting us to renew our minds and transform our lives.
There’s nothing wrong with dreaming. Rather, it’s all about having the right dreams. . . dreams that are informed by Biblical realism than by sticky-sweet sentimentality.
Let me encourage you do all you can to keep the graduates you know and love from willingly walking the bottoms of their feet into skubalon, by putting a copy The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness in their hands.