To Stephen on his graduation




It seems like last Wednesday that you graduated from Kindergarten with a Life Saver dangling from your cardboard hat. I congratulate you on waiting until the final prayer to crunch that candy. And I congratulate you today on an even greater achievement: graduation from high school.

            Your mother and I felt like singing the Hallelujah Chorus when you seized that diploma, for there were times we wondered if you’d stop playing hockey, or baseball, or  “Age of Empires” long enough to finish crucial assignments. Like me, you suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder, a wonderful condition full of constant surprises, but something teachers are still learning to appreciate. Despite these distractions, you have passed enough tests, written enough essays, and dissected enough frogs. I’m proud of you. When I was your age, I was madly in love with your mother. I’m glad to see that you are reflecting none of that foolishness yet. [pictured: Stephen is on the left]

            Some of your peers accepted honors today and it’s important that you learn to rejoice with those who rejoice. We Callaways were seldom singled out for academic awards, partly because we wanted to give the other students a chance, and partly because, as your grandfather once said, when they were handing out brains, we were at the buffet table loading up on ham. I made the Horror Role twice, but never the Honor Roll. And so, in the absence of other honors, I wish to bestow upon you three distinguished awards, sponsored by companies you may recognize.

            1. The Pulitzing My Leg Prize. Solomon once wrote that laughter is better than Prozac, and you have proved him right. You have invented hilarious faces, said things we still can’t believe, and brought abundant humor into our home. You have put gum in my hair, soap in my toothbrush, and Kool-Aid in the showerhead. People ask where I get ideas for my books. They need look no further than you and your siblings. Never forget that one laugh is better than three tablespoons of bran flakes. Laughter is a holy gift from a loving God. Those who laugh the hardest don’t laugh because life is easy, but because they have felt God’s hand of mercy on their shoulders.

            2. The Callaway Golf Award. People wonder how I can endure a game that rewards perseverance, courage, and devotion—with ulcers. The reason is simple. I love to be with my kids. We have peeled divots from dozens of golf courses together. And we have learned disconcerting things about our sinful nature. In fact, sometimes we’ve been so mad at ourselves that we’ve forgotten to hate our enemies. I love the way you put everything into each swing. And I don’t begrudge the fact you are now hitting it farther than I. This world won’t be a better place until kids are an improvement on their parents, so go ahead and hit it hard. Your generation is characterized by apathy. May that never be said of you. Keep lunging at life and whacking it dead center.

            3. The GAP Award (God Answers Prayer). Eighteen years ago your birth changed my life. I was humbled with a sense of my shortcomings. Unprepared for the intensity of my desire to see you walk with God. I began praying a simple prayer back then: that you would fall in love with Jesus and never get over it. I have seen Him answer in marvelous ways. Lately my prayer is even more basic: That you would see the awfulness of sin and the greatness of God. In traveling to a few hundred speaking engagements with me, hauling my luggage through countless airports, there are few things you haven’t seen Satan doing. But you’ve also seen God at work. Remember the men’s retreat where a convicted murderer covered in tattoos hugged you hard? I suspect you do. “Follow God,” he said, “and you won’t end up like me. I never knew my father. Thank God for yours.”

I’ve accepted a few honors in my day, but none comes close to the honor of being your dad. Twenty-five years ago today your mother and I walked the same aisle, graduating from the same school. We have found every promise of God to be true, every day He has been faithful. He will do the same for you.

I suspect you saw my tears today as you and two friends sang the closing song at the graduation ceremony. I couldn’t help myself. I cried because I love you. I cried because the words sum it up so well: “Your grace still amazes me, your love is still a mystery. Every day I get on my knees, your grace still amazes me.”

Keep singing it. Keep living it. All the way Home.


With love, admiration and applause, Dad


PS: We hope you enjoy the cash, the books and the Life Savers. One of these days I’ll return the gum, the soap, and the Kool-Aid. When you least expect it.  


Celebrate relationships with the perfect gift for your graduate. Making Life Rich Without Any Money. 

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