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May is usually a month with many mixed emotions. It took me years to understand what was happening inside of me during this month, and why tears would fill my eyes at the oddest places and during the most ordinary events. This year, one evening I was in a hurry to get home to watch a basketball game with my family, I tried to accelerate to catch a green light, but I could not. As I waited for the red light to change, tears came down my face. Crying due to a red light? That is really odd, I thought.
Instead of rushing home, I made an unexpected turn and started to drive aimlessly. I had a chance to meditate and to remember that it is May. May is the month when I say goodbye to many students who are graduating. May is the month when I keep reading columns and blogs about women who would love to be mothers, but they cannot due to infertility issues, and how Mother’s Day is so painful for them. In addition, this May has been hard as I have observed from my new office at Baptist University of the Américas the demolition of the old campus. For 10 days, I have seen and heard heavy machinery hitting and tearing down these beloved buildings.
So I parked my car in a corner, and I cried, not for a red light, but for all the pain and grief that I was feeling.
I arrived home, watched the rest of the game, and then went to read a chapter that I had written for a book some years ago (Nora O. Lozano, “Nurturing Life: A Mother-Theologian Reflects” in The Divine Duet: The Call to Ministry and Motherhood, Alicia Porterfield, editor, pp. 61-65). Here is a brief section of this chapter:
“… By the grace of God, I have been entrusted as a teacher with the minds and hearts of many pupils over the years. I have encountered these students, eager to learn, in formal academic settings and classrooms, as well as in more informal settings, such as church conferences and workshops. Throughout the years, I have learned also that I need to let them go and let God continue to work on them. But learning this was not easy!
“Graduations are memorable and joyful experiences. Certainly they are so for the graduates and their families and friends. They are also so for me as a professor as I see each one of my students walk proudly to the stage to receive his or her diploma. Graduations are sad, too, however, as I realize that these students will not walk the halls and the classrooms of the university again on a daily basis. So I find myself with mixed feelings of celebration as well as grief. Sometimes I experience the same feeling of grief in more informal settings as I speak in conferences or workshops in different places around the world. I grieve as I think that my time with these students is over, and that I may not see them again.
“… Instead of feeling anxious regarding the place in the process where I left these students and how I could have helped them more, I recognize that I need to be grateful for our time together, let them go, and let God to continue to work on them. So a prayer of gratitude for our time together, a prayer of blessing for them as they walk the next stage of the journey, and a prayer for me as I leave them in God’s hands is the best response in these moments of grief.”
After reading my own words, I followed my advice and I prayed. With teary eyes, I gave thanks once more for the 2017 class, for all the time that we were together, and the many things that we shared. I entrusted them to God’s merciful, wise, and loving plans. I prayed, too, for the women who would love to be mothers, and for BUA’s future. Finally, I gave thanks for God’s constant faithfulness and care.
Social media has made parting with students more bearable. Some time ago, graduation day was truly a time to say goodbye, but now I have the comfort that through social media, I will continue contact with many students, regardless of where they are, and that I will get to witness the great things that they will do.
While I will continue to see many students after graduation through social media, I know for sure that I will never see again the buildings of the old campus. They are gone! But the good memories stay: memories of God’s faithfulness and provision; memories of the way that God blessed our academic endeavors; memories of so many students whose lives were transformed, and who have gone to do great things in God’s name; memories of great theological discussions, inspiring worship services, laughter in the halls and classrooms, and also some occasional tears.
So even though the old buildings are gone, and many students will leave after graduation on Saturday, the good news is that our omnipresent God will go with them and at the same time will remain with the BUA community as we keep learning and serving in the next academic cycle. The good news is that the mission of the university remains intact as we move forward to continue serving God and our students in a brand new, beautiful, and modern campus that is truly a gift from God and a powerful testimony of the generosity of faithful donors.
So today I am thankful for old buildings and new buildings, for good memories and the hope of a bright future, for former students and current students, but above all for God’s grace that has sustained the BUA community and me personally throughout the years. So even though every May comes with many mixed emotions and some unexpected tears, I am grateful for this month because it always provides an opportunity to reflect, grieve, pray, give thanks, celebrate, remember, and hope. God has been good! To God be the glory! Amen!