Last week, a lot of my friends graduated. For some of them, this paves the way for more study – postgraduate or a completely new degree. For others, it is the final step before they settle in a new job. For others still, the future is unknown. For all, though, it is the culmination of three or four years (or in some rare cases, even more!) spent working towards the degree. Now that’s over, there is just cause for celebration and for congratulations: they (you!) have made it. Through hard work, sweat and allnighters, and in some cases, luck, they have obtained what they set out to do.


To some younger people, this moment will come in a few weeks, when they find out what university they got admitted to; or what grades they got for GCSE and A-Levels.

Whether you’ve just got through an interview, landed your dreamjob, put your first down payment on a house, or managed to finally finish reading this book you’ve been putting off for the past few years, there is a question you need to hear. That question is:

Now what?

When our focus has been on one single goal, we can be lost when we reach it. We end up doing one of two things:

1. We can think the hardest part is behind us and just start doing nothing. We lose purpose and allow ourselves to be lulled by the routine of the job/houseownership/studentship we worked so hard to obtain. After all, if we managed to get that, it means we’re clever enough for the rest to fall into our pocket without working. More importantly, there seems to be nothing more to strive for – at least for a while. That’s what I did in my third year of university, after I managed to get into the course I wanted to get into.
That’s what the disciples get doing between the Cross and Pentecost – yea, even after they witnessed the risen Christ, and the Ascension: they wait. This period of celebration (joyful worship!) and this break makes sense because they are waiting for the next step: it is expectant waiting, not simply dossing around.

2. We can be so glad that it’s over that we want to leave it all behind. The degree we spent three years on, after all, will not be useful, so we might as well forget about it: the job’s done and delivered and is no longer our problem. That’s sometimes the way I feel about my PhD: I want nothing to do with academia as soon as I have graduated. And while that’s fine, it’d be stupid to reject the experience and the knowledge I have acquired during the programme on the single basis that it was part of a PhD.

Both, in their own way, negate the work that was put into getting there. Both put an end to the momentum that was gained getting there. And both make the question “Now what?” particularly important and scary.

Success is no protection against this. Neither is acceptance of failure. Only the sustained willingness to keep on serving in whatever environment is.

So if you graduated last week, congratulations! Celebrate, enjoy a break and rest for a while – you most certainly have deserved it. But don’t leave your degree and what you’ve achieved just stay in the past: take them as an opportunity to serve.