INTERVIEW WITH ELLA ROSE, A 2020 HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE:
The current pandemic has shown its influence beyond the curse of illness inflicted on untold millions. We all have stories to tell of the ways our plans have changed in the past few months. Beyond the simplicity of “change,” in many instances, our plans have been dashed. Disappeared. Gone. Have you questioned why, beyond the physical science of a lethal virus? Have you questioned why beyond the lack of candor of China (in generous terms) when they withheld information about the virus? Have you asked God how to navigate your new living reality?
As I continue to interview graduates, they respond in synchrony to this reality, expressed by Ella Rose. “I imagined my senior year in a certain way for my entire high school career. As the quarantine continued, I came to the realization that I wouldn’t have a prom or a graduation ceremony or everything I had been promised since kindergarten.” In many schools across America, no graduates walked across a stage to receive their diploma, signifying their readiness for the next step in life. There was no “Pomp and Circumstance” playing to heighten already profound emotions. No hoots and hollars, whistles and applause, celebrating fulfilled achievements, or even victory over trials. “Traditions,” as they sing in “Fiddler on the Roof,” are important. We look forward to our traditions, which usually are a testament to our deeply held values.
[For a taste of tradition, listen here: youtu.be/wl7BY5y7vP4]
Ella Rose shared how she adjusted to her cancelled celebrations, and things seemed okay. After all, prom and graduation celebrations aren’t the focal point when you are standing on tiptoe, peering into your yet-to-be-revealed future. “Honestly, for me this wasn’t the end of the world. … college was my main focus,” she said. Having begun college coursework during her senior year, Ella Rose was ready for the transition, in anticipation of bursting forth into her new adultness. But, more challenging was when the pandemic drug on, and still remains. Would it also shortchange her dreams for starting her “new life”?
Where is our loving God when circumstances fail to meet our expectations? If you are honest, questions often flood our minds when obstacles prevent goals and dreams. Even with a strong grasp of God’s Divine nature and His personal involvement here on Earth, doubts may come knocking. Ella Rose believes questioning is an important aspect to growing and developing, ultimately aiding in better decision-making. She responded with candor: “The pandemic has caused me to question everything in my life.” Yet, she also finds hope in a higher plan than she can control or even understand: “…no matter the reason for this, it was always destined to happen.”
In self-reflection, Ella Rose states she learned some things during this quarantine. As a whole, Americans tend to live busy, distracted with the whirlwind of duties, family life, friendships, and social activities. In being always “on the clock,” there’s no time to reflect on the choices you make, or the value of any of it. Young adults are not exempt from this common suppression of inner emotions and spiritual dimensions with unending to-do’s. The Bible says human life is like grass. You may not like that simile, but it is a reference to the brevity of our existence. Should we not take time to evaluate how we spend these precious days? Surely none of us, if we grasped how quickly our physical lives go, would choose to squander it.
Not being surrounded by her burgeoning social relationships, Ella Rose “was forced to truly feel my emotions instead of escaping and distracting myself.” Ahhh, so insightful, Ella Rose. So often we are uncomfortable with our feelings, so we wiggle away from confronting them. Keep busy-busy-busy, and you won’t have to figure out anything important. You can just keep moving from one thing to another and never stop even to breathe, let alone evaluate the meaning. If you pause, you may find you do have some questions. What in the world is this existence all about? Are you a some kind of cosmic accident? Or do you have a higher purpose and design? Questioning is a good thing if it takes you to truth instead of denial. It’s good to ponder, ask, and then choose wisely how you will live.
God holds the answers. When you ask “Why?” remember even more importantly, “What can I learn from this?” We may never understand every eternal purpose, but God never fails to listen earnestly to his seeking children. I have many questions for God when we meet face to face. For now, I will rest in peace as David writes in verses 13-14 of Psalm 27: “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord. Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord,” (NIV).