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What’s Next: Closing Senior Year

One United Methodist teen, nearing high school graduation, ponders lessons learned during the pandemic-era ending of his senior year. Photo by Terrence  Thomas (@tezthomz) at Unsplash
One United Methodist teen, nearing high school graduation, ponders lessons learned during the pandemic-era ending of his senior year. Photo by Terrence Thomas (@tezthomz) at Unsplash

In nonreligious environments, I find myself learning so many lessons that help me in my faith. My AP Literature teacher, Tim Davis, once said, “It’s amazing that the savior of the world cried.” He didn’t know what he taught me that day, but I learned about more than literary techniques. I learned that it’s not always sunny out, but when it rains, there will eventually be a rainbow. Right now during these unprecedented times, I would be lying if I said that I was not sad. Like most teens, it is often hard for me to process situations. In these hard times, I remember that even Jesus cried. It truly is okay to not always be okay, but now more than ever I must turn to and put my faith in God.

Senior year was supposed to be the coasting finish to an adverse childhood experience. Although I strongly dislike waking up early, school has always been a privilege that I am grateful for; a privilege that not all youth have access to. It is the place where my friends and I find ourselves having lunch in the drama room. Where I spent a semester learning how to express myself through poetry while discovering things about myself that I was too afraid to admit before. The place that encouraged my friends and me to participate in clubs like Vikings For Change, where we could make a difference by using our voices, talking about the “hard” stuff and volunteer in diverse environments.

I was looking forward to high school ending because I was so excited for the opportunities and experiences waiting for me at Drew University. I had a countdown to graduation, but I could have never imagined that the last time I would walk the halls on a regular school day was 69 days before I was expecting. I never meant to wish away the end of my high school career, I simply wanted to take the next step into “independency” and “freedom.” Now I am faced with the reality that, as much as my school system is hoping and trying, I may not get to experience my senior prom or a traditional graduation. My high school career as I know it has come to a screeching halt.

For wisdom and hope, I’m looking to a passage that my previous district superintendent once referred me to:

My child, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life for many years and bring you peace and prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

Proverbs 3:1-3;5

This passage gives me hope that this will one day pass and it is time to pick up that Bible study you have been meaning to do, dive into God’s word, and explore what faith means and looks like in your personal life. To the seniors in the world who have just lost what was left of this chapter of their lives, let us stand together and develop a new tradition that helps finish this chapter in a positive way. Just because it does not look like what we thought it would, does not mean that we have to surrender to fear.

When my father passed away in 7th grade, I learned that bad things will happen and sad days will come, but that it is up to us to decide how and what to do with it. I found myself at a crossroad of faith and anger. I did not know what to do so I turned to God and his church. Admittedly I did not realize that it was far more complicated than what I had remembered learning in my Sunday school classroom. I still find myself going between mountaintops and valleys. At some points in my faith, I have had to deconstruct certain aspects of my faith and decide what to do with them. This pandemic only has as much power as we give it. It is time for us to take back the narrative and use this situation to shape our next step in faith. I am so grateful for where God has led me and all the people who continue to shape my personal faith journey.

Nate Roark is a graduating senior at Tennessee High School in Bristol, Tennessee. He is planning to pursue a college degree through Drew University. He is currently serving in ministry as Holston Conference’s Council on Youth Ministry Mark 12:31 Fund Chair, Certified Lay Speaker and at his local church, Hunt Memorial United Methodist Church.

[Published May 6, 2020]

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