Cary Christian School’s class of 2023 graduated on May 18. This year our salutatorian was Chloe Chan and our valedictorian was Ryann Aycock. One of the highlights of every CCS graduation is the privilege of hearing the wise and eloquent words delivered by our valedictorian and salutatorian, and this year was no exception.
If I had to pick one word that describes our senior class, I would choose the word “uncommon.” From our strange obsession with marriage to the magnificent car parade on homecoming, from the minion takeover of Medieval Day to the Raleigh Trolley ride to Protocol, this class has been anything but ordinary. More importantly, though, I think it is most uncommon how we’ve all come to care so deeply for one another. The bonds that we have developed over the years are strong, and my heart breaks to know that our time together is now coming to a close. So, how can we continue the work that we started here together at CCS? In the coming years when miles may separate us, how can we continue to be uncommon? And what does it even look like for us to be uncommon as individuals?
For a follower of Jesus Christ, being “uncommon” means to be holy, to be set apart as God’s chosen, beloved children. We are to live differently from the rest of the world that does not have a relationship with Christ. In this fallen world, it is easy to look, act, and live just like everyone else, but God has not called us to conform to this world. Instead, He calls us to act so differently that others may look at our lives and glorify our Father in heaven! In 1 Peter 1:15, Peter writes to the church, saying, “But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” Unfortunately, in America today, the church seems to have lost sight of this mandate and has reverted to being common, acting in the way of the world and chasing after the desires of our own hearts. Because of this, I want to charge each of us to be the opposite. As we prepare to go our separate ways into this world, I challenge us all to be distinctly UN-common, serving as lights in our ever-darkening world.
But how can we be set apart? First, let’s each be uncommonly loving. Of all the virtues in the Bible, the apostle Paul tells us that the greatest is love. Today in America, “love” is a word that’s often misused to describe fleeting feelings and fleshly desires. However, in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul does not describe love as merely a feeling, but rather a lifestyle of patience, kindness, and humility. Love is a repeated sacrifice to those around you, a constant effort to put others first. A fantastic example of someone who demonstrates this type of love is Grace Shi. Grace loves each of us in all situations. Even if she’s having a bad day, she always has a smile on her face and words of encouragement for others. Let’s all follow Grace’s example of uncommon love, sharing Christ’s love with the rest of the world.
Next, I want to encourage each of us to be uncommonly grateful. Gratitude is often forgotten even in Christian circles when things aren’t going our way. It can be easy to blameshift and whine about our circumstances. We tend to complain when things get hard, especially when we think we have too much homework or when we wake up at 4am to await the arrival of buses that never show. However, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Paul doesn’t just instruct us to give thanks when things are going our way. He commands us as Christians to pray and rejoice at all times, on the tallest mountains and in the deepest valleys. And let’s look at the big picture. God has chosen Christians to be his holy and beloved children. We are heirs with Christ because of what He did for us on the cross! We deserve nothing, yet Jesus has given us everything. That is something for which we should be eternally grateful.
I further challenge each of us to be uncommonly kind and considerate. Let’s not be self-absorbed, missing opportunities to help and encourage others, as we weren’t put on this earth to simply focus on ourselves. Instead, let us be aware of the needs around us, always being willing to offer ourselves in service. When I think of an example of these traits, Conner Mahan is the first person who comes to mind. Conner is constantly looking for ways to serve, whether he’s sharing some of his tuna with his teammates after cross country practice or he’s just asking how someone is doing. His actions reveal that he is always thinking of others before he even thinks of himself. So let’s all imitate Conner in being uncommonly considerate and kind.
I also want to challenge us all to be uncommonly humble. It seems that humility has become extremely rare in our culture, as it comes from giving God the glory in all situations. Every gift and talent that each of us has is not because of our own doing. God is the Creator, and just as surely as He gives, He can take away. No one can boast in anything, not even our salvation, because everything we possess is grounded in God’s will. However, God, being rich in mercy, has blessed us with the beautiful world we live in, with wonderful friendships, and with sweet memories that we’ve made. Most of all though, He has given us the gift of salvation that is more valuable than any earthly gift. Because of this, we ought to humble ourselves and give Him all the glory in every situation, for without Him, we are nothing.
Additionally, let us be uncommonly bold in our faith. As Christians, we can be too complacent, being content to keep our faith to ourselves to avoid uncomfortable situations; however, God did not place us on this earth to be comfortable! Our faith is a faith that all of Jesus’ disciples were willing to die for. We ought to have the same mindset as these disciples, sharing God’s Word with all we meet through our words and our actions. We, like Paul, should be able to stand up and say, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel!”
One of my favorite memories from this year was when Grace Allen shared her beautiful testimony at convocation one Friday. She told us that she felt led to share her faith with others, and she spoke boldly and with confidence about everything God has done in her life. We ought to all emulate Grace’s uncommon eagerness to carry out Christ’s mission to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
Finally, I want to encourage us all to be uncommonly devoted to God. Every time we worship something other than God, we will fail to get the satisfaction we’re seeking because true satisfaction can only be found in Him. We elevate celebrities to the status of almost godhood. We spend more time stressing about our grades than we do in God’s Word. We let our sports dominate our thoughts. We chase after the things we want, rather than stopping to ask ourselves what God wants. We place our identity in the activities we do, the friends we have, the achievements we’ve accomplished. We worship all these worldly things, yet we neglect to worship the God who created them all! In my favorite book, titled Run The Mile You’re In, the author, Ryan Hall, a devout Christian and former professional marathoner, writes, “I finally realized the simple truth that there is nothing I can possess that is more valuable nor is there anything I can accomplish that is greater than knowing God and being in a right relationship with Him.” Jesus Christ has given us everything we have, so we, in turn, should give Him the worship and glory He deserves, destroying the idols in our lives and turning our utmost attention to Him.
So if we are already saved and redeemed by Christ, why does it matter how we live our lives? Colossians 3:2-3 says, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” When we truly put our faith in Christ, our lives are no longer our own! We cannot keep living like the world because in submitting to Christ, we are dying to the world! This complete surrender is so contrary to the self-promoting, self-worshiping culture we live in.
So I urge you, Class of 2023, to continue to be uncommon, not just in your unique sense of humor, but also in the way you live your lives. Dare to break the mold in which the world tells us we have to conform. Dare to be uncommon.