Did you know that “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss is one of the most popular graduation gifts? And its no wonder with the life lessons that Dr. Seuss packs into this one book. In case it’s been some time since you’ve read the book, I would encourage you to either download it / listen to it before you move on in this post.
As you review the book again I would encourage you to jot down anything that comes to mind as you hear the story.
As adults who have lived through this journey it is easy to see why we would give this as a graduation gift to the younger generation. We want to prepare them for the “real” world.
What I think is so powerful about this book is that it speaks to all of us. I am sure that as each of you read the story one part resonated with your life today. Or maybe you see your own life reflected here and you could add so much more to the lesson.
But for me, when I read and re-read this story I felt only one thing…lonely.
You Are Never Alone
When the idea for this message first came to me, I read and re-read the story. I sat with my kids and read it. I read it over several days, hoping that I would hear a different message. But I only heard one message….you are alone!
In every phase of the story, Dr. Seuss seems to imply that the reader has to do everything alone. That any success that is achieved is done so without any assistance. He also implies that when we fail we won’t’ have anyone that can lift us up and that we don’t have anyone we can reach out to for guidance or help.
So is this story really as valuable as we first thought? Yes, I believe so, but I think it should be paired with something else. One of my favorite books that I was given when I graduated from college was The Bible Promise Book and I think it would make a great companion guide to go with Dr. Seuss message.
This book is designed to help the reader find scripture for different topics. For example, if I look under Guidance the firs listed reading is from Isiah 30:21 – “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”
In fact, in almost every situation that Dr. Seuss says we will find on our path, this book has a list of scriptures to help us find our way. For example, courage, enemies, faith, help in troubles, hope, humility, laziness, loneliness, success, wisdom, work and worry.
Help From Family and Friends
We need to be reminded that we are never alone, and The Bible Promise Book is the perfect reminder to me of that. First, this book was given to me by one of the most important people in my life (my sister). She has always been there to support me and to listen to me and to help me whenever I needed it – even when it comes in the form of a book that I am still using all these years later. It’s a reminder that I have a support team of friends, family, and community that have helped me.
My career after graduate school was spent entirely with one company. I worked hard and was fairly successful with them. Then one day I received a call that changed everything, I was fired (just as Dr. Seuss said would happen). It was my friends and family who listened to me that helped me to process the situation and it was a former co-worker who helped me to find a new role quickly. Granted I needed to show up and do all of the work – but it was their support that helped me through. This is what Dr. Seuss missed! If I had built up my life without making those connections I’m not sure how long it would have teaken to move on.
Help from God
But let’s suppose for a minute I didn’t have my friends, family or community to lean on. I would still have my faith. I would still have God who reminds me through his word that he is there for me. Here are a few scriptures to tell us we are not alone:
Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Isaiah 30:21 – “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it”
Psalm 46: 1-3 – “God is our refuge and strength, and ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heat of the sea though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”
Deuteronomy 20:4 – “For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”
John 16:33 – “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!”
Even Jesus Didn’t Do It Alone
If my story doesn’t seem to resonate with you, then look at it this way, even Jesus didn’t do it alone. He had 12 friends and his father that were with him everywhere he went. They not only provided friendship but were a witness and learned lessons from him. They were his succession plan for when he could no longer be with us.
When Jesus felt abandoned by his friends, he still had God and the Holy Spirit to turn to for help and guidance. We have that same support structure available to us.
Maybe scripture doesn’t work for you — maybe a poem would be better?
Footprints in the Sand
One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.
After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.
This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”
He whispered, “My
precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”
I delivered this message to Rotterdam UMC on Children’s Sunday. In this service, we honor all of the accomplishments made by our children and children’s ministry program throughout the year. During this special service, our pastor was going to read “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” in place of a message, so I based my message on the same theme.
Unfortunately, the pastor missed the point I was making and I don’t want you to have the same misunderstanding. She felt I had ruined the book and decided not to read it as planned. Please don’t misinterpret my meaning here. I believe this is a wonderful book! It has many wonderful and real messages to be shared. I just don’t believe it is the only message that should be received.
To this day, this remains one of my favorite messages.