It’s finally June, and Orthopraxis has come to an end. Doesn’t it feel like we just finished a school year? Maybe it’s because it also happens to be graduation season, but there’s a sense of closure and freedom in the air. I’ve heard my fair share of commencement speeches, so as we wrap-up Orthopraxis, I think it’s only fitting I begin my memoir in similar fashion.
Welcome, family, friends, distinguished guests, members of Ekko church, curious readers via Reddit and StumbleUpon, and of course, the GRADUATING CLASS OF ORTHOPRAXIS 2014!!! WE DID IT!
I remember our first week of Orthopraxis, a brisk Friday evening in the back room—So much anticipation! So many people here! Are we all going to cry tonight? Are we going to speak in tongues? Are we going to sacrifice an animal? Are they serious about this strikes thing? Why is there so much reading? What is a covenant relationship and is it legally binding in the 48 contiguous United States, plus Puerto Rico?
That was February, now it’s June. Five months later and along the way we’ve discovered that life is like a race or a journey and the people in our lives have shaped our future and—okay, I’ll stop.
No one likes commencements speeches. They’re all boring, way too long, have forced humor, and you’re almost always praying for it to end quickly. Some of you probably feel that way now while reading my testimony. (Mission: Accomplished.) And of course, the worst thing about commencement speeches is you know what’s coming—a four part summary of what’s been gained throughout the educational experience garnished with a quote from Mother Teresa, a former US president, or Dr. Seuss. Luckily, this is where the connection between commencement speeches and Orthopraxis stops. Because I don’t know about you, but Orthopraxis was nothing like I expected.
I thought it would be easy; It wasn’t. I thought I’d break down in tears every Friday; I didn’t. I thought I’d feel drastically different; I don’t. Truthfully, I brought a lot of presumption with me into the program,and as God often does, He surprised me. I think we often try to put God in a box, according to how we think He’ll move in our lives—after Orthopraxis I’ll feel more connected to people at church. I’ll be head over heels in love with Jesus. I’ll stop drinking. I’ll finally be ready to date. (It. Just. Got. Real.) But if there’s one thing I learned over the past five months, it’s that this whole Christianity thing, this thing we call faith, is nothing like attending school. You don’t graduate as a Christian. There are no finals. It doesn’t end; God doesn’t hand out diplomas.
Orthopraxis is the beginning of re-orienting your life towards intentionality in your relationship with God and with people. It’s practicing things like prayer, reading the Bible and Christian literature, missing out on your friend’s birthday Vegas trip because you have other commitments (#FOMO), and loving other people. It’s learning to establish a rhythm of discipline and improvement to continue your entire life—not end just in time for summer trips and day club season. Can we make progress? Of course, and I think we all have. But if you’re wondering like I am why you don’t feel like a completely different person, or like you’ve just finished becoming a “real Christian”, take comfort in the fact this truly is just the beginning. We got a taste of what correct living looks like. It’s up to us to continue the practice. There are no shortcuts. It isn’t easy. In all likelihood your milestones will be small improvements only you and God know about. But it leads to Life. And as we all know, life is a race, or a journey, or something like that.
As I wrap up my fake commencement address, I’ll leave you with a cliché dictionary definition: Webster’s dictionary defines the word commencement as “The time when something begins.”
Here’s to the end of Orthopraxis, and the beginning of correct living.
Robert works in marketing for the Barna Group, a Christian research company. He enjoys good coffee, wearing long-sleeved shirts with the sleeves rolled up, and making anyone who rides in his car freestyle rap. He currently attends Fullerton Ekklesia.