Congratulations, Eric!!

Nearly one and one half decades ago, a mother listened with a heavy-heart to the doctor’s diagnosis of her 3-year-old son, “Severe Autism – he’ll never have an IQ over 50…probably never walk or talk…it might be best for you to consider institutionalizing him”. She didn’t spend the following days mourning, or throwing herself into researching the institution which would best fit his needs. Instead, she prayed – seeking the Lord’s will and desire for her son’s life. The Lord’s answer, very different from the doctor’s, was for her to continue to hope in Him, seek Him in all her ways, sell her psychiatric practice, homeschool him, and devote every ounce of energy to pulling her son from the abyss of his dark, silent world. Unbeknownst to her, she’d spend five of those years waging her own brutal battle against cancer. This week, she and her son stood victorious at his high school graduation, giving thanks and praise to the Lord for the road they’ve traveled together, for all they’ve learned, especially about the never ending mercies of a gracious God who will surely walk with them on their next journey when her son attends a top-notch California university, majoring in linguistics. I’m blessed, beyond measure, to call this woman a friend, and a Sister in Christ. With her son’s permission, I’m honored to share his uplifting Valedictorian speech presented this past weekend. -Sharon

Valedictorian Speech
June 2006
By Eric Hendrickson

So, we are finally graduating. This perhaps means we might have learned something worthwhile. What have we learned over the years here at Covenant? We have learned to read and write, to diagram sentences, to solve algebraic equations. Most importantly, we have studied the Bible in depth. We know that there is one God, Who created everything and is Lord of the whole world. We are all made in the image of this wise, all-powerful Creator. It is through this God that we have our purpose, which is to glorify Him and to do His work.

Since this is true, the ultimate question must be, how do we glorify God, and what is His work? Is there one ideal personality type and set of abilities that glorifies God best? Is there one occupation that is “holier”, or a specific work that pleases God more than all others? Do we have to fit a mold? On the contrary, there is great diversity among human beings, and the Bible teaches that each of us is uniquely designed for the contribution that God intends us to make through our lives. Variety in human personality and talent glorifies God in the same way that variety in nature testifies to His wisdom and power.

But as we have grown into adults, each one of us has had to come to terms, in some way or another, not only with what gifts God has given us, but also with what He has not. None of us are everything that we dreamed we’d be when we were small. Some of us were disappointed when we did not grow as tall, or as big, as we wished to. Others of us might have preferred to be smaller. Some of us wanted to be smarter, or more creative, handsome, or beautiful than we turned out to be. Probably most of us wish we were more popular.

I was born with a serious handicap. And I although I am truly grateful to God for enabling me to overcome most of the serious consequences of this condition, I must admit that I have often been tempted to ask, “Why can’t I be more like everyone else?” This is when I must consciously remind myself of the truth that my life is not a mistake, a cosmic accident. Rather, God designed me to be just the way I that am, and He has a purpose for me even in those things about me that are different; indeed, perhaps especially in those things that make me different. I have to make a conscious choice to believe what God’s Word says is true about me, rather than believing what the world says about my value and importance.

Our society sets an exacting standard of achievement for us. If we don’t fit the mold it sets we are, if not worthless, at least not important. If we do not have a high paying job, if we do not drive a fancy car, if we do not have a beautiful wife and family, if we have not made a monumental scientific discovery, if we are not great athletes, if we are not admired and popular, then we don’t matter. And those of us who have little potential to achieve in any of these areas are considered to be less than irrelevant.

However, this is not a biblical concept.

In Matthew 25, Jesus teaches in the Parable of the Talents that it is not what we have been given that matters, but what we do with what God has given us. God is glorified when we place Him first in our lives and seek to use whatever gifts He has given us in service of His kingdom. In Luke 21, Jesus teaches us that the widow who put two small copper coins in the offering box put in more than anyone else, because she gave everything she had. He did not devalue her worth as a person, even though society at His time deemed her to be unimportant because she was female, a widow, and poor. This woman, from her meager resources, contributed far more to God’s Kingdom than all the others who gave more because they happened to have more, and, like the good servants in the Parable of the Talents, she was praised by her Master for her faithfulness to Him.

All of us, whether athletically gifted, intellectually superior, artistically talented, or compassionate “people persons,” can be encouraged by the biblical truth that God has created each of us just the way we are for His glory and purpose. He is glorified as we each work for His kingdom in our own unique way to the best of our ability. If we do, on the last day He will say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Ultimately, our lives have meaning and purpose not because of our gifts or our accomplishments, but because of our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. As we go forth into our adult lives, let us all dedicate ourselves to finding what work He has especially suited us to do, purposing to seek His glory, rather than our own, in everything we do. Let us do our work with the goal of conforming ourselves to the image of Christ and pleasing Him, rather than conforming ourselves to the world’s standard and pleasing ourselves. Let us continue faithful to the end, advancing Christ’s Kingdom through His grace and power. And may God enable us to glorify Him as we do so.

I want to thank each and every one of our guests for coming today to celebrate our graduation. Thank you, Mr. McManus, for being our principal for the past six years, and for leading each of us and touching our lives. Thank you, Pastor Wagner, for sacrificing your time by coming here daily to teach our Bible class, and for preaching at our chapel meetings. To all the staff and faculty who have worked with us over the years, I am deeply grateful. I want to thank my classmates, my fellow travelers, for being kind to me and being my friends. I also would like to thank my parents for carefully and patiently raising me, and for loving me. But most of all, I thank God for saving me and for delivering me through many hardships. It is only because of Him that I even graduate today.

  1. This is probably one of the best graduation speeches of all time. At any level – High School, college, Grad School. Thanks for sharing it.
    — dave ericson    Jun 17, 05:33 PM    #
  2. We can all learn a thing or two from this young (but wise) man.

    Thank you for sharing.
    — Tina    Jun 20, 12:25 AM    #
  3. You have inspired me to be better than I have, to be the person God meant for me to be.
    — Reba    Jun 20, 02:20 PM    #
  4. Eric,

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful words with us. Congratulations on your fantastic achievement graduating Valedictorian of your class.
    — Mark Ericson    Jun 23, 05:26 PM    #
  5. Thank you Eric for waking me up to the presence of God’s love for us in creating us just the way he intended.
    Our life is so much like yours. We were also given this pesimistic future for our son by the experts! and just like your mom, I refused to believe in them and instead trust in our Lord for a better future for our son. Today he is in Middle school and thriving! I will save your speech to continue to inspire us throughout our journey in life. Congratulations to you in everything you do, and God bless you. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your story.
    — Olga    Oct 4, 10:34 AM    #
  Textile help