As a graduating college student, I’ve got a lot to think about. On the one hand, I’m excited to finally be at a point where I don’t have to worry about taking exams, doing homework, or studying. But, on the other hand, I’m pretty nervous about taking on the responsibilities of the “real world.” It’s been a time of mixed emotions for me, and it’s specifically posed a challenge to my faith life.
I’ve had to put a lot of trust in God over the past several weeks, letting go of any worries because I know that, ultimately, God will take care of me. During this tumultuous time of my life, I’ve found some comfort in one of the most unlikely places: the Ascension, which happens to be celebrated (at least in most parts of the United States) on the same day as my school’s graduation ceremony.
The Ascension is one of those bits of Christian doctrine that doesn’t quite make sense at first glance, but makes complete sense once understood in the right context. On the surface, the story seems incredibly counterproductive: why would Jesus, the very Son of God who loves us all infinitely, leave humanity behind? He could have done so many more good things for the human race if He had stayed on earth. But, instead, Jesus chose to return to the Father.
Of course, Jesus never would have done anything without some purpose, and the purpose of the Ascension, I’ve come to understand, was to let the apostles experience the gift of the Holy Spirit and carry on Christ’s mission themselves. The Ascension required the members of the early Church to grow and change so that they could carry out the mission Jesus set out for them, still with Jesus' help, just in a different form, namely that of the Holy Spirit.
Once Jesus ascended into Heaven, the early Church had to trust completely in the power of the Holy Spirit to carry on, and that power did more than just let them keep going forward with their lives as usual. Their trust in the Spirit allowed them to heal the sick, introduce an entire region of people to Christ, and even endure incredibly painful deaths for the faith.
Time to Move On
In the same way that the Ascension allowed the apostles to endure, each “ending point” in our lives allows us to grow on a personal level and on a relationship level with God. As much as part of me would like to just stay in this somewhat cushy college lifestyle, where my responsibility is not as high as it will be after graduation, I know that perpetuating this seemingly easy situation will not be at all good for me. In the same way that Jesus—or at least His bodily form—needed to leave the apostles, I need to move on from school and start doing new things with the gift of life I’ve received from the Lord.
And as long as I trust in the Holy Spirit, I’ll be able to do great things through Him. I don’t necessarily expect to start speaking in tongues or curing the blind, but I know something great will come of trusting in the Lord because that’s always the way it goes.