Hello Providence students and welcome to the new school year! My name is Carter Butaud and nine years ago I was a senior at Providence; ten years ago I was an eleventh grader, but a much smaller eleventh grader than my little brother, Landon! Providence was a lot smaller then, too. You guys have awesome soccer and lacrosse teams – we barely had enough people for a basketball team. I was a starter when I was 5’2’’! Since I graduated, I studied computer science at the University of Washington, was a software developer at Amazon.com and now am working for Microsoft. I’m the very fortunate husband of my beautiful wife Eleya, the father of two future Providence students (Lord willing!), and a very undeserving but blessed child of God our Father.
I was asked to address you all as you start the new school year. I’m very humbled to perform what is usually the job of men and women wiser than me, like your amazing teachers and school staff. I hope you will bear with me, as I will doubtless fall short of the standard they set. That said, I’m very excited to do this, and I hope that I can be helpful by reaffirming what they tell you from a different perspective.
Let me first start by congratulating you all on being here. My education at Providence is one of the most valuable gifts that I have ever been given, and I am thankful to know that there are so many people here receiving it as well. You are being equipped with the tools of learning that will serve you for the rest of your life. On top of that, you’re diving into the historical, literary, and scientific building blocks of our society, and understanding them will give you deep insight into our modern life. Most of all, you’re learning how to trace God’s beauty through all our art, to find His truth in every aspect of our knowledge, and to trust in His goodness through everything that happens, big or small. While you may not be able to recognize the blessing in every bit of your education right now, I encourage you to trust your parents and your teachers, and you will be richly rewarded.
I was asked to give you a charge to help start your year. My charge to you won’t be unusual – I am sure that your parents, your teachers, and your pastor all tell you this frequently. But sometimes you can hear a thing one hundred times, only to have it sink in a new way the hundred and first. And I only wish that this had sunk in more deeply for me when I was your age. Here it is: in everything you do, boldly live out God’s grace.
Our God is incredible. We fail Him and rebel against Him every day, but instead of responding as we deserve, He pours out blessing after blessing upon us. That is what I mean by God’s grace – that He gives love and favor to creatures who deserve none of it.
But what does it mean to live it out boldly? It means living completely free from fear! It means casting off your fear of failure and weakness – God said to Paul that His grace is sufficient for us, for His strength is made perfect in weakness. It means casting off your fear of your own sinfulness. You should hate your sin and drive it out with the aid of the Holy Spirit, but when you stumble and sin anyway, you can still “come boldly to the throne of grace, that [you] may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” It means casting off your fear of what others think of you or what will happen to you for following God, knowing that “God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”
Sometimes people worry that focusing too much on God’s grace can lead people to be lazy. They wonder, “If you don’t have to be afraid of sin or failure, then why would you strive for holiness and excellence?” But when you have really tasted the grace of God, you know that it does not make you lazy. It inspires you to give your all for such a loving God! God made us to dedicate our lives to Him, and His perfect love and grace remove the shackles that hold us back, so that we can run in the way of holiness! When you know that you don’t have to fear failure, you are finally free to love God and your neighbor with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Yes, you will fail sometimes. Yes, you will sin against each other and hurt each other. But trust in the goodness of God’s grace, and you can dare to try your best anyway!
Boldly living out God’s grace will look different for different people at different times, since He calls each of us to different things. But it will always transform your life into something beautiful, no matter where you are. In school, it means doing your very best at every subject, and not worrying about whether your best will be enough. It means that when you are lazy or dishonest, you confess it to your teachers and your parents, knowing that they will forgive you and help you learn how to move on. Your value is not based on them thinking you are perfect – it is based on the inexhaustible love of God. It means using whatever gifts you are given unashamedly. Whether you get straight A’s or are barely scraping by, you are infinitely valuable only because of God’s grace, not your own abilities. It means being honest and loving with your friends about your sin and their sin, knowing that you don’t need to think any less of each other because of it. For older students, it means showing the younger kids the same grace that God showed you, and looking to build them up even if they’re not as cool and fun to be with. For younger students, it means forgiving the older students when they don’t treat you just right, and being brave enough to do things that seem too big for you, trusting that God will work great good out of it.
Living out God’s grace in everything you do is hard! It is too hard for any of us to accomplish alone. But you are not on your own. You have your friends, your teachers, the staff here, your parents, and all the other Christians in your life. You have God’s own Word to study and to be shaped by. And in an unbelievable work of grace, God the Holy Spirit dwells inside of you, labors to make you more perfect, and even prays for you when you don’t know what to say. With His help, you absolutely will learn to trust God’s grace more and more every day. So now, I will leave you with these words of Paul: “I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”