Graduate Reflections from 2022 Commencement Ceremony
R. Michael Thornton
Pastor and College Director who Shared Graduate Reflections at Regent University's 2022 Commencement Ceremony
I would like to welcome all staff, faculty, family, friends, and fellow graduates to this remarkable day. We made it! I am honored, humbled, and overwhelmed to be allowed to speak on behalf of Regent’s graduating class of 2022. Thank you to Dean Gomez and other Regent Staff for nominating me for this incredible honor.
What Does Today Mean to You?
Today is about Redemption. I have learned that redemption is God’s version of Revenge. It’s when God makes the enemy pay you back for everything lost and stolen from you in previous seasons of your life. Redemption looks like God taking your darkest moments and turning them into your best ones. In my darkest moment, I was homeless, suicidal, and hopelessly addicted to crack cocaine. I am embarrassed to admit that I begged for money and had to eat food out of the trash to survive. Out of being addicted to illegal drugs for ten years, these were some of my darkest moments. Ironically, I found my best moment in this dark season of my life. It didn’t come in the form of an idea, finding a new home, or finally getting a job. My best moment came in the form of a person. His name is Jesus. When I was utterly shattered in my mind, body, and soul, he met me right where I was. And he loved me right where I was. He changed my life.
Ever since that day, He led me to pursue higher education. I have been a student at some level in education for nearly 20 years. What does this mean? Redemption. Today, by standing on this stage, you are witnessing a divine miracle take place. You are watching our heavenly Father pay back ten years of my life there were stolen and robbed through addiction. And I declare this truth over you today, Class of 2022, that today begins a new chapter in your life called redemption. Today is about God taking your hardest nights, your darkest moments, the difficult journey that got you here and turning them into your best moment to shine. To all my fellow graduates, I want you to know that when we turn those tassels, we are turning the page to a new season, a new chapter, and a new beginning. Today is a day of redemption.
Today is also about healing. My entire life, I struggled with a certain mindset called self-hatred. For years, I cursed my own intelligence by declaring I was illiterate, unintelligent, and incapable of learning. As someone addicted to crack cocaine for ten years, this limited my way of thinking and God’s ability to move in my life. Pursuing higher education was God’s way of inviting me into a season of mental healing to improve my overall mental health. I believe this is the case for many of you here today. Education is more than just learning new information. It’s more than just becoming qualified in your area of expertise. Your education journey is God’s way of healing your mind. Specifically, the way we think about ourselves, God, and the people around us. King Solomon, the wisest man in the world, agrees with this when he wrote, “As a man thinks, so is he.”
There was a time in my life I couldn’t form a cohesive sentence due to the mental and psychological damage that occurred in my mind due to drug addiction. Yet, because of the redemptive work of Christ through my journey in higher education, he has completely restored and healed my mind. I want you to know that with every blackboard post, every response post, every paper, and every exam, our heavenly Father has been working behind the scenes to not only empower you with knowledge but to heal you psychologically and mentally. Class of 2022, I declare over you today that your mind is completely rehabilitated, and your intelligence is being transformed into the mind of Christ. Today is a day of healing.
Today is about declaring war against the enemy’s works within the nations of the world. Make no mistake about it; today, we are at war. Currently, there are cultural wars, political wars, judicial wars, and religious wars taking place all around the globe. But we must not be afraid and recognize the weapons we carry because of today. Besides healing, my educational journey has prepared me with strategic weapons to help win the war against the evil in the world. Every time I choose vulnerability in sharing my story, I am winning the war. Every time I choose to be a voice for someone who has lost theirs, I am winning the war. Every time I choose to lead someone into truth, I am winning the war.
Class of 2022, I declare the same over you today. When you leave this campus today, I want you to know that your ability to write is a weapon. Your ability to speak is a weapon. Your ability to engage in critical thinking is a weapon. Your ability to debate and lead confidently is a weapon. These divine weapons are now part of your arsenal to pierce through the enemies’ lies in politics, destroy the devil’s educational agenda, and establish God’s kingdom in every square inch of society. You are leaving here today armed and dangerous. It’s time to release what you carry and walk in the fullness of what you have been prepared for. Today is a special day because, as a global church, we are winning the war.
I bless you with courage when you feel afraid.
I bless you with confidence when you begin to doubt your leadership.
I bless you with the ability to forgive quickly when you become offended.
I bless you with the ability to trust God when you don’t know what to do.
I bless you with the ability to have fun and laugh when anxiety tries to rear its head.
I bless you with the Fire of God when you want to quit and give up.
I bless you with the ability to reproduce Christ Jesus in the people you will lead.
Class of 2022
I bless all of us today as Christian leaders called by God to change the world.