By WCS Headmaster, Dr. Roger Erdvig
(This article is an edited transcript from Dr. Erdvig's commencement speech, given to the WCS class of 2021 on Saturday, June 5.)
As I looked through the program this week, I was struck by all the decisions you have made to get here today:
What to do after high school.
What scholarships to apply for.
What to wear in your senior photo.
Where to take the picture. City? Country? Nature? Inside? Outside?
Whether to sport the cool, disinterested look or the "I’m all in with this smile" look. (I’ll not name names.)
But, you have many decisions still ahead of you.
This morning I’d like to talk about one word that may very well help to make some of those decisions easier by providing a key to open doors. That word is SKILLED.
Thinking back to when I graduated from high school, I had many decisions to make as well. When I thought about what I’d be doing, I didn’t much look at the present or the past—just the future. Questions surrounding college, marriage, my ultimate job dreams—these all focused on the future and what kind of person I would become. And this is understandable, isn’t it? We always ask “what do you want to be when you grow up?,” not “what are you now?”
However, we miss an important facet of God’s purposes for our lives if we ignore the past and present. In fact, our lives and who we have become to this point can provide clues and keys to God’s future purposes for us, and we should not ignore them as we seek His will for our lives. And that’s where I want to focus my remarks today—with this one word for the Graduating class of 2021—SKILLED. My thesis is simple: where you are uniquely skilled may very well open the doors to the opportunities God has for you.
Today, I am a leader, educator, and writer—but I also have a skill that is completely unrelated to my primary calling. I am a skilled carpenter. My dad is a carpenter. Both my grandfathers were carpenters. And on my dad’s side of the family, we know that at least three more generations were carpenters.
As a young child, my dad had me pulling nails out of wood and cleaning up the job site. As I got older, I learned more and more about working with wood, and in my teen years, summer days were spent getting up early and climbing bleary-eyed into the pickup truck to head to the job site. As a teen, I would have rather been heading to the beach with my friends, but after logging many hours working with dad, by the time I was a young adult I was able to work full-time as a carpenter both on my own and in my dad’s business while serving a few different churches. I’ve been on several mission trips to lead building projects.
Carpentry opened many doors for me—doors that I may not have been able to go through had I not had that unique and valuable skill. While carpentry is not my primary vocation, God has used my skills as a key to open many doors in my life.
But is this just my unique biography? Is there any Scriptural evidence for this concept of a SKILL leading to or opening the doors to God’s will, even if that skill is unrelated to one’s primary calling?
We are all familiar with the rise of David to the kingship of Israel. The once-obscure shepherd boy rises to fame and prominence to ultimately lead the entire nation as warrior-king for 40 years. But what marked his journey to the throne? He was not born to privilege and was not the son of a king. He truly was “just” a shepherd and the least of all his brothers.
I see two main factors in his rise to prominence: God’s calling and what appears to be an unrelated skill. In I Samuel 16, we find that David was called and set apart to be king by the prophet Samuel. God sent him to find one of Jesse’s sons to be king, and after going through all the “most likely to be king” sons, young David was the one identified as the future ruler. This clear calling from God to a unique vocation was THE primary reason why he ascended to the throne.
But after that epic moment of selection, he went back to his regular life of tending his father’s sheep. No crown. No scepter. No armies at his command. Nothing but a clear call from God for a huge task, with no indication of how he’d get from point A to point B.
So how did he go from shepherd to king? How was that door opened?
Reading further in I Samuel 16, we find that King Saul was greatly disturbed by a spirit that would torment him. It was suggested that music therapy via the harp would be the ideal solution to his troubled mind. Saul agreed, and directed his attendants to find someone “who plays well and bring him to me.” Saul needed someone skilled in harp playing to serve in his court. Here’s where David gets his big break.
One of Saul’s servants piped up to say “I have seen a son of Jesse who is skillful in playing…” Saul sent for David who immediately responded to the call, with harp in hand. Whenever the harmful spirit was upon Saul, David took the harp and played it. Scripture says, "Saul was refreshed and well, and the harmful spirit departed from him.”
There is so much to unpack in this story, but we do not have time. I simply want to point out how David got noticed. He was skilled at something that was seemingly unrelated to his primary calling, but which was needed in the halls of power. Ultimately, being a skilled harpist opened the door for him to serve Saul, defeat Goliath, and establish himself as a great leader of men. But it began with a simple, almost homey skill. That skill probably required hours of boring practice, forced upon him by Mr. and Mrs. Jesse. Maybe even expensive harp lessons.
God has uniquely created you with skills that can be developed and honed. Some of those skills you may have ignored or put on the back burner in pursuit of your real goals and ambitions. My challenge to you today is that God may very well use the most mundane of your skills—forged in the unseen crucibles of daily living—to open the doors for how he wants you to serve him in a vocation.
Whatever you are skilled at—continue to hone that ability. Don’t give up on your instrument or singing now that you’re off to college. If you’re good at public speaking, work to be even better. If you are good at fixing things, look for that next broken thing—both to fix it AND to increase your expertise.
Just as David’s pathway to God’s plans was opened by being skilled at playing the harp, perhaps too, you will find your purpose in life by being good at something and being willing to serve others with that skill.
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