The Endless Sea: Tom Keefe’s Speech to the Class of 2014

Among our graduates last Saturday was Tom Keefe, who had the honor of speaking to his peers in the Bethel class of 2014. Tom was kind enough to let us publish his remarks.

Tom Keefe
Tom also played football during his time at Bethel

Good morning! My name is Tom Keefe. I am a senior at Bethel graduating with degrees in History and Social Studies Education (Gr. 5-12), and I have been charged with the task of sharing how my life has been enriched by Bethel, while also providing a challenge for the class of 2014. Hopefully I can achieve both tasks this morning.

I can truly say that my life has been enriched by the multitude of things I have learned or have been affirmed at this institution. Some of which include: that dancing is not a sin; that brothers and sisters in Christ were born for adversity; that sports can inspire and foster a brotherhood or sisterhood that is unmatched; that there is nothing like the dynamics of a freshman floor; that thin crust pizza at Davanni’s is superior to their traditional option; that “study day” is rarely ever used for studying; that I could not imagine having professors or coaches that did not care about my personal growth, and (with apologies to those professors) that late night talks with roommates are sometimes more eternally significant than homework.

All of these lessons were special and have created memories that will remain with me the rest of my life, but I believe the most significant thing I will take away from my from my four years and what I want to communicate this morning can be surmised in a simple expression: It’s not about you!

This life, and everything it entails, is not about you and it’s not about me. As we, the class of 2014, prepare to begin lives in a variety of callings and vocations, we must understand that we are susceptible to being easily convinced by the world that we are the reason for our own existence. We live in a world that is consistently communicating that it is all about us, as things like social media foster a sense of self-indulgence and self-care. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, although not inherently bad, fuel narcissistic tendencies that lead us to believe that the glorification of the self is above all other things. Think about it: Facebook asks “What’s on your mind?” Twitter wonders, “What are some of your interests?” Instagram encourages you to share your moments. It’s all about YOU. We have to recognize this truth, and realize that it’s not about us as much as the world tells us it is!

I think this compares to something C.S. Lewis articulated in The Weight of Glory, where he writes that in this life we are often like children living in the slums. One day the child is offered a choice to stay in his slums, or go on a vacation somewhere near the sea. Rather than choosing to go and running wildly into the seemingly infinite and refreshing ocean which awaits him, he decides to stay home because he is fixated on some mud pies, and this sand and dirt prevents him from understanding the enjoyment of the endless sea.

That’s us. There are so many fickle and finite satisfactions in this life that place the focus on ourselves and take our attention away from our Creator and the eternal and beautiful truths He has promised us. Enjoy the ocean!

Greg Bailey, "The Endless Sea"
Licensed by Creative Commons (Greg Bailey)

So if we know that it is not about us, and we know it’s not about those mud pies, then what is this life about? What lies in that infinite sea? My charge for us this morning is, Wade through the thick muck of this life to see what we were ultimately destined for.

I believe it comes down to two very simple truths. I really believe that this life is about loving and glorifying God, and it is about loving and serving others. It’s not about you; it’s about loving God and loving others.

There are so many ways to love God and serve Him, but the one I want to highlight today is the idea that we can love God simply by doing what we’ve been created to do. Everybody in this room has a unique and beautiful set of gifts which were provided to honor our Creator and further His kingdom. Knowing this, love God by understanding how He has equipped you and give yourself away to your job, your calling, your vocation… Whatever it may be, give yourself away wholeheartedly. Radically offer yourself and your gifts in whatever God has you doing and in this way you are loving God, running to the sea, and living life in a way that’s not centrally focused on you.

In the same way, there a number of ways in which we can love others. God has granted us relationships and brief interactions on a daily basis as a means to glorify Him, while also encouraging the other individual. Every day we can make a choice to love and care for others, to put the needs of others above our own. All those graduating may have had interactions with Sodexo Deb. There were lots of days where I have been worn down, upset, sad and she was always there with warmth and encouragement that undoubtedly to improve my days. I’m grateful for people like Deb because I think it serves as a reminder that you can be that person for someone else! You can choose to encourage, smile, and simply be there for others. In this encouragement and love you will find that you are enjoying the sea as we were created to do, and ensure that you are not living for your own ends and desires.

Today is a wonderful day and I think it provides a perfect opportunity for us to look at our lives and understand that all of this is really not about us. And that should not take away from the joy and accomplishments of today, but it ought to inspire and encourage knowing that we serve a God who has promised so much more than the world has to offer, a God has given us an abundant and meaningful life through Jesus Christ. A God who calls you His son or daughter, and a God who loves us beyond our wildest imagination. So rise and go out into the world class of 2014, and love this God and love His people, because that is what awaits us in that endless sea. Thank you.

Tom has previously written for us on immigration and family history, the Paris Commune of 1871, and To Kill a MockingbirdThis fall he’ll start teaching social studies at Legacy Christian Academy.

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