There is a young man who grew up in my hometown of Beaver Dam, WI, and who played for my alma-mater high-school football team, the Beaver Dam Golden Beavers. Last month he signed to play in the NFL -- for the Minnesota Vikings! His name is RJ Shelton – a former Michigan State wide receiver and most valuable player.
So when the football season kicks off in the fall emotions among my Green-Bay-Packer-loving-hometown family and friends might be running even higher than usual. Now that one of Beaver Dam’s native sons has signed to play with the archrival Vikings, the cheers and jeers could become more intense and even a bit conflicted. Somehow the good people of Beaver Dam will have to hold together the pride they feel for RJ and their hope to see him succeed with the animus they have always felt for his new team.
It’s a good example to keep in mind. We have entered into a season of conflicted emotions. These are the days of the bitter and the sweet. We are celebrating graduations throughout our parish. On the one hand we are very proud of our young people as they reap the rewards of their hard work and advance to answer a new call from God in their lives. On the other hand, there is more than a tinge of sadness and worry. We have to let them go a little more and that is not easy.
Yet our God has given us spirits that are created to hold together the full spectrum of life’s experiences – and to reconcile mysteries that at the same time can be joyful and sorrowful and glorious.
Watch a toddler who is learning to walk. She will very likely have a broad range of expressions on her face. One second her face will reflect a sober intensity as though what she is doing is the most serious of all tasks – one that demands her full focus and concentration. The next second the shock of fear will flash across her face as her whole body and world begin to shake. That very same face in just one second more will beam with the most joyful of grins.
You’ll notice that those same conflicting emotions are reflected in the face of her parents too.
One of the words I heard a lot in my seminary formation was “integration.” God calls us to be fully integrated humans. That means that all of the joys, sorrows, fears, and hopes inside of us somehow need to meld and blend together if we are to grow as healthy and holy people.
So, congratulations graduates! It’s going to get interesting, at every stage in life, but keep uniting your heart to the heart of Jesus and it will all meld together just fine.