George Bowers Sr.: Graduation, football, and life

George Bowers Sr.

It’s a special weekend here in Shenandoah County as our high school seniors walk across stages, pick up their diplomas, and head off into life. Many surrounding localities have already celebrated these milestones and a few are yet to come, but by mid-June most schools are out and students who have successfully completed their educational requirements can turn their tassels and move forward.

High School graduation remains a significant life event and is an important mile marker in our society that most young people complete. It has only been arrived at with hard work, determination, help, and encouragement so it deserves celebration. Graduates and their families can and should bask in the glow of this accomplishment and savor the moment.

This mile marker, however, is just that. It is a measurement along the road of life that indicates advancement from past position but indicates that the road continues. Graduation is not a destination but more like a rest stop.

In terms of football, graduation represents a significant scoring drive that will help ensure success in the game. Unfortunately, it’s not even the end of the first quarter, however, much less halftime. In addition, it was likely the easiest scoring drive as most students had extensive help from parents, teachers, and peers. In some cases, graduates were able to waltz into the end zone standing up because of hefty blocking and brilliant plays designed and executed largely by others.

Leaving high school, however, often signals a change in the game. In many cases graduates must learn to know and play with entirely new teammates as they enter the job force, the military, or college. In addition, they suddenly become their own coaches, quarterbacks, and runners. Making this transition is easier if these responsibilities have been transferred to them gradually over previous plays but there is usually major adjustment necessary.

Instead of depending on a coach to determine the best strategies, new graduates must develop their own plans and plays to help them score. Former coaches such as parents and teachers can be very helpful in advisory roles, but the responsibility will now rest primarily on the graduates themselves. There will be times of offense with exciting plays and huge gains, but there will also be periods of defense when it will be important to hold as much ground as possible until the ball can be advanced again.

Thankfully, life’s playbook has been provided by the one who created and initiated the game. The Bible is chock full of strategies, examples, contingencies and encouragement they will need to succeed in each quarter of their game and finish victoriously.

Since we are not competing against each other, it’s also perfectly acceptable and even beneficial to share tactics and plays with the newbies. Those of us who are in our second, third, or even fourth quarters of life have some great experience to share that can help them succeed, and wise graduates will welcome that advice to avoid making all the mistakes themselves.

Most importantly, just as football players must overcome adversity to win games, these graduates will need to face and conquer difficulties. Hopefully, they’ve been allowed to work through some smaller problems on their own previously which helps prepare them for this and some students have already fought significant battles and developed the perseverance, stamina, and drive to overcome. All players in life’s game will face some resistance from physical challenges, relational disappointments, financial setbacks, or other trials. Mustering the courage and fortitude to face these daunting challenges and not quitting is crucial for game success. There will be yardage losses, quarterback sacks, and even penalties, but the will and determination to press on can improve the odds of victory.

At the end of the game, success on the field is measured by how many points a team puts up relative to its opponent. In life, however, success is measured differently and the ultimate victory is to hear our Owner say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” when we enter His locker room. From the world’s perspective, there may be nothing but visible defeat, but God knows the true score and will reward each player according to his or her faithfulness.

As this new crop of graduates heads into life’s game, may we each reflect on where we are in the game and may we encourage and help them as well.

In Jesus, George

George Bowers Sr. is the Senior Pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren and has authored nine books including his latest, “Valley Verses, Volume III.” He can be reached through www.georgebowersministries.com or at gabowers@shentel.net.