The day started in darkness, before the sun came up. Before I even rolled out of bed, I already had tears in my eyes. It was Senior Night. It would be the last Regular Season Home High School Basketball game that my oldest son Jadon would ever play. Tonight was the night the school would honor him, along with many other kids who were now seniors and drawing near to the end of their High School athletic careers.
A brief thought as I sat up, “How did we get here so fast? We were just bringing him home from the hospital and afraid to drive with him in the van. That was just yesterday…right?” I’ve heard about it, I’ve experienced many other “Senior Night” events, but there is no manual to prepare you as a parent when it’s your own kid. I know that every parent processes it differently. Some may just be glad to finally get their kids out of the house. Admittedly, I am not yet that parent. If the only thing I ever did for the rest of my life was participate in the process of my kids playing amateur sports, I would likely be content. But life moves on, and we have no choice but to move with it.
I was not prepared for the onslaught of memories that would flood my brain and my saturated heart throughout the day. Tears came at unexpected moments throughout the day. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the journey and the privilege of being a dad to this kid. I had been texting Jadon pictures of his basketball career periodically throughout the day, from the time he was a kid, all the way to the present. I told him to be aware and to never forget every single juncture that led him to this moment. Be thankful for every part of it.
It’s game time. We arrive at the parking lot, it’s dark again, and I’m walking to the entry, still wiping tears from my eyes. The parents are called to join their Seniors. The kids they once could cradle in their arms with the greatest of ease, are now in uniform and towering over their parents. When we turned the corner and got to Jadon, I was no longer able to suppress the tears. I still remember dropping him off to his first basketball practice. Wasn’t that just yesterday? I was emotionally undone by the fact that my firstborn son was advancing through life and through these moments at a pace that seemed to outrun my ability to embrace it as fully as I wanted.
The announcement of his name, the gift, the cheers, the walk, the photo, the hugs, the smiles, the tears. It was only minutes, but it was a moment in time I will never forget. It may seem rote or routine to some, but this moment is far from routine or ordinary. The truth is that this moment is not really even about this moment. It’s about every moment before that led to this moment.
There have been approximately 6,570 days (18 years) prior to this that have led to this moment. Those moments have included victories, losses, wins, failures, struggles, laughter, death, life, loss, and so much more that comprises the journey of that Senior. And this is why the tears flowed. It wasn’t about something coming to the end. It was more about everything we experienced to get to this moment, and being overwhelmed with gratitude that we got to do it.
Since the day my oldest son Jadon was born, I have prayed God’s daily protection and provision over him, and that he would grow through both the good and the bad of life. To the date of this Senior Night, God had answered that prayer approximately 6,752 times. That is why the tears flowed. It was less about this very moment, and more about everything that led to this moment. God’s faithfulness, as usual, had been better than we deserved.
We call it “Senior Night” because it is about celebrating the Seniors and their accomplishments, and rightly so. But the Seniors are only one small part of it all. Appropriately, the Seniors get the spotlight in this moment. But in every shadow of every spotlight, there are parents, family members, teachers, coaches, mentors, friends, pastor, and others who have sacrificed, and even given up their own dreams so that this moment and everything that goes with it may be realized.
Senior, know that there are side stories and back stories that all collide in this one divine moment with your name on it. You didn’t get here by yourself. There are the parents who sacrificed, provided, paid, and drove you back and forth to every event. There’s the coach who challenged you and made you better. There’s the teacher who believed in you when no one else did. There’s the Pastor who showed up to pray with you and led you to the Lord. There’s the grandparent who loved you unconditionally and slipped you extra money when you needed it. There’s the brother or sister who looked up to you, even when they were annoying you. There’s the boss who gave you your first job. There’s the friend who you could talk to when no one else listened. There’s even the students in the student section. They wrote your name on their faces or on posters, and cheered you on, even when they didn’t even know you personally.
The list goes on and on of people who helped make you who you are today. You may not have had all of these influences. You may even have had a few who showed you more what not to do, and got you here in spite of themselves. If that is so, either way, you have a God who created you in your mother’s womb. Long before you were even a thought, you were on His mind. He has faithfully led you to this moment, in both the wins and the losses. He will never abandon you, even when others may. He is the ultimate reason you are here.
They will call your name over the loudspeaker, you will get the applause, and you will stand in the spotlight for this one brief, divine moment in time. But know this, in every shadow of your spotlight is a team of people who loved you, believed in you, led you, and helped bring you to this moment. Their names won’t be called, they won’t get applause, but never forget them and their role in your journey. Good or bad, God used them for a reason. This is as much about their story as it is your story. You are all here because you have each other. This night could just as well be called “TOGETHER Night” as it is “Senior Night.”
This is what leads to the most important part…the next day. If this night has any impact on you at all, then let it be this: You are only the sum of the God who created you and the people around you. Never forget them, always be thankful for them. Though your Senior Night may be the crowning of some of the “lasts” in your life, let it also be the beginning of the “firsts” in your life. A life lived in humble gratitude for the God who made you, and for those around you who love and support you. Spend the rest of your life honoring this God, being aware of these people and thanking them, and you will always be surrounded by people cheering each other on, both here and in eternity…TOGETHER.