News & Events


Posted in: Big Faith, Celebration, Growth

06.08.23 ( Amanda Torres )


I graduated with my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing this past May. This is something I worked to achieve for a long time. It was an important and exciting moment for me, but it caused me to reflect on a few things. When I graduated high school in 2010, I remember waking up the next morning and thinking, “Now what?” However, the morning following my university graduation I didn’t have that response. I thought about that reaction for a moment and realized why. It’s because I knew what was next. I had a plan in place that had been acted upon and pursued. What next? Grad school in the fall, completion of my internship in November, a new apartment, among other things I have been praying and preparing for.

As great as all those things can be, they are all temporary goals meant for this life. On Earth. It got me thinking about another graduation ceremony. The most important one I will ever attend. The one that occurs when we leave this life and go to the next. When we graduate from life to eternity in heaven. How do I want to graduate? With honors? Summa cum laude, magna cum laude, or barely passing? Making it by the skin of my teeth?

I’m sure most of us have heard the saying, “C’s get degrees!” But is that how we want to live our lives, just skating by? Is that how I want to live my life when I know that I am perfectly capable of doing better? Knowing that I could achieve summa cum laude if I put in the time and effort? Is this any different from my walk with Christ? Do I want to give my all, my very best, for Him? Or do I want to just barely make it – all singed and burned from the refining fire that was at work in my life?

Giving it my all means to not give up. It means to keep moving forward no matter what happens. In Philippians 3:12-14, Paul writes to the church in Philippi and tells them, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Paul exemplified what it means to graduate summa cum laude, to do our very best and give our all to God and His kingdom. 

Joshua and Caleb weren’t much different from Paul. In Numbers 14:6-9, we see Joshua and Caleb speak the truth even though the Israelites didn’t want to hear it. They didn’t just go with the status quo or whatever everyone else was doing. They put God first no matter what and trusted His plan and commands. Their story shows us how giving it our all also means to be courageous and to step out in faith. It means to do the hard things. To take the more difficult road rather than choose the easy life. It means to not let our fears dictate our lives. To not live a mediocre and boring life. God didn’t tell Joshua to “be strong and of good courage” for nothing in Joshua 1:9. The Christian life isn’t a walk in the park, it requires courage and faith – especially when things don’t go as we hoped or planned.

One of the most common scriptures I’ve heard for graduates is Jeremiah 29:11. While this is a great verse, it doesn’t quite touch the forward motion projected by graduation (it’s more of an exhortation). It’s a comforting and encouraging verse, but I always felt like it didn’t answer the “Now what?” most graduates ask the morning after they graduate – the very question I asked when I graduated high school. It’s taken me a while, but I think I finally know the answer to that question regardless of where we are in our lives.

Here’s the CliffsNotes version of my journey from high school graduation to my bachelor’s degree: I went to college right away and majored in English with a minor in Creative Writing. I completed 3 semesters with a 3.7 GPA but couldn’t afford to continue my education and had to leave to find a job… right as we hit a bad recession, and no one was really hiring. I did volunteer work for a year while job hunting. When I finally got a job, I worked there for over 3 years since I couldn’t afford to do anything else. In 2016, I enlisted in the Air Force for 4 years and got my associate degree in maintenance production management (far from the degree I really wanted). I finished my last year in the Air Force with a 6-month deployment. Shortly after I returned to the states, the Covid pandemic shut everything down. So, I separated from the Air Force, after completing my 4-year commitment, during Covid. I went on to start college again, nearly a decade after I was last a full time, traditional student. My first year back was entirely through Zoom since Covid was still around. My last two years were a bit more typical as we returned to in-person instruction.

Finally, I graduated college with my bachelor’s degree in creative writing. In 2023. It was 9 years later than I planned, but I had the degree I wanted rather than the one I had settled for. So, as you probably guessed, things didn’t go according to my plan. I was initially going to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in English in 2014. Instead, God took me on a long journey to get me somewhere better. Because this was His plan all along.

Our walk with Christ is like the road I took to get my degree. I worked hard for that degree. Not because I had to, but because I wanted to. I had lots of opportunities to call it quits and take easier routes, but I never gave up. Things didn’t go according to my plans and took a lot longer than I expected, but God used this time to mold and shape me. To show me how He works in our lives and uses every circumstance. To teach me that He has a plan and purpose for everything. If things had gone how I wanted, I’d be in mountains of debt and probably working a dead-end job while trying to pay it all back. I wouldn’t have gained all the experiences I have or been to the places I went. I wouldn’t have grown as much as both a person and a writer. In fact, I might never have discovered my writing voice or who I am as a writer.

My point is this: God’s plan is way better than mine. His plan caused me to grow and develop. To do things I never had the courage to do before. I never would have graduated (and with the degree I truly wanted) if things had gone my way. But things didn’t go as planned – at least not how I planned it out.

When I went back to college, I wanted to graduate summa cum laude and worked hard for it (missing it by less than one GPA point). But that isn’t as important as how I graduate from this life. We work hard for the things that matter the most. For what is most important and central to our lives. What about our walk with God? How does that look? If we were to graduate from this life to the next, would we graduate with the highest distinction? Or would we have barely made it? Will we have given it our all? Or was it just the leftovers? Was it mediocre or did we do our very best?

I mentioned the “Now what?” question along with Jeremiah 29:11. I want to go back to that and point out something I recently discovered. The “Now what?” for our Christian walk is found here, in Revelation 22:7, 12, and 20. In this chapter, Jesus tells us that He is coming quickly and uses each verse to direct us on what to do to prepare. He tells us how we can graduate summa cum laude, or “with the highest distinction.”

In verse 7 Jesus says, “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” Then verse 12 says, “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.” Lastly, verse 20 says, “He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” So, what three things do we need to do to graduate from this life to the next “with the highest distinction,” or summa cum laude?

1. Keep the word (v. 7)

2. Do the work (v. 12)

3. Await His return with patient expectation and excitement (v. 20)

If we keep the word, if we treasure it in our hearts and obey the word of God, then we will joyfully and willingly do the work of God. We will seek to bring a bit of His kingdom down here for the sake of leading more people to Him. We will freely serve God because we want to, not because we have to. We will understand that our works don’t save us or make us good, but that we genuinely want to do good works because we truly love God, and we love people. Finally, we will do all these things while we eagerly, excitedly await Jesus’ return and the day we will graduate from this life to be with Him forever in the next.

We do not know the day nor the hour of Jesus’ return. But He said He is coming quickly. Live every day like tomorrow is your graduation. Live your life to the best of your abilities and graduate summa cum laude rather than barely making it. Don’t be afraid to step out in faith. To do something you never thought possible. To go where God is calling you to go or serve where He calls you to serve. Remember, “Be strong and of good courage . . . for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Give God your very best, your all, and stop living that mediocre and boring life.

To find out ways to help grow your faith, check out Community.

To find out ways to help grow your faith, check out Young Adults.

This blog post has been posted in:
Big Faith, Celebration, Growth


We love to hear how God is working in your life. Click on the link below to share your story!

Share Your Story

About the Author

Amanda Torres is an Air Force veteran and recent graduate from Chapman University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. She will pursue her MFA later this year. She interns at Resilience Inc. as a comic strip writer and wants to author graphic novels, novels, and screenplays. She serves with ONE&ALL's Digital Communications Team and the special needs community group.

Similar Post

More Articles Posted in: 'Big Faith, Celebration, Growth'


Posted in: Big Faith,...
Read On

Who Is Your Hero?

Posted in: Big Faith,...
Read On

Latest Message