There is a hole inside of you (Part II)

Dr. Craig Barnes

This is Part II of The Reverend Dr. M. Craig Barnes sermon at Wake Forest University’s Baccalaureate service on May 15, 2016.  Part I can be found here: There’s a Hole in You (Part I)

When my daughter graduated from college, I was amazed to hear the commencement speaker peddle the exact same drivel when I graduated from college. He looked out over 5,000 graduates and said to them: you are among the brightest and best we have ever seen. Set your goals high, dream your own dreams, chase your own star, and you can be anything that you want to be.


He might of well have said: I’m sorry we have nothing for you. It’s all out there, go put it together the best you can. 

And that’s really the assumption that we have that life is something we self-construct, not something we inherit. Not something that comes upon us with glorious mission, but self-construct. And the way we think we self-construct our own life is through our choices.

Anyone who has done parenting in the last generation knows that all good parenting advice has been about helping Johnny make good choices. So when Johnny throws a rock through the window, you’re not supposed to go out and spank him.  You bring Johnny in, you show him the glass on the floor and the rock and ask Johnny: was this a good choice? Johnny’s who a smart young man says: I’m thinking no. Right. Good choice. Good choice.

Then as Johnny gets older then, then you know, the choices become more important, there’s more at stake, the anxiety level goes up, but its still about making good choices. Right up until Johnny applies to go to college. Then the stakes get really high. I’ll never forget the anxiety that my daughter went through. The reach schools. The safety schools. God help you if find out that your reach school is someone else’s safety school.  You hope that the school that you are choosing you, chooses you.  And finally when you get through that, you get to school, the first thing that they tell you to do, is what, choose a major.   Only you don’t think you are choosing a major, you think you are choosing your life. And you are 18. There’s a lot at stake. So you don’t really know what to choose. Then there’s Grey’s Anatomy.  That’s a good show. Doctor! I’ll be a doctor. It’s real easy, you just choose it.  You get on the Registrar’s web site and you type in pre-med. You’re going to be a Doctor. Then you take Biology 101 and you realize you’re not going to be a Doctor.  It’s not a problem. You just go back to the Registrar’s website because you can just choose again. Pre-Med. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. Let’s see – – there’s a lot of good lawyer shows.  Pre-Law. Submit. And in 15 minutes you think you’ve changed the trajectory of your life, it was so easy, it was just a choice. As I watched my daughter, I discovered you can do this three or four times, actually.  And then as soon as you graduate, what you’re going to hear people say to you is, pick a job.  I remember saying this myself, sweetheart, just pick a job.  Any job would be good.  Just choose.

And here’s where it gets interesting, after you pick your job, if you decide that you don’t like it, the old mentality of getting on the Registrar’s website perseveres. And you think you should be able to pick again. If you don’t like that job, just choose again.  This is way people relate to the rest of their lives. If you don’t like your church, you just choose again. If you don’t like the town you are living in, if you don’t like your friends, or for that matter, you don’t like your family, you just keep choosing.  And as a pastor I watched my parishioners eat up their precious, fleeting years, constantly choosing, thinking if they just made the right choice, they can fill up that hole inside of them.

~ The Reverend Dr. M. Craig Barnes, President and Professor of pastoral ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary. An excerpt from his sermon on Sunday, May 15, 2016 at the Baccalaureate at Wake Forest University

Notes: Related Post: There’s a Hole in You (Part I)


  1. This was great speech. Good luck for the young people… always makes me so excited, because it would be a new start… Thank you dear David, have a nice weekend, Love, nia

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The grass is always greener – except when it’s not. Choices are always so clear – except when they constantly blur.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. i loved this –

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The frustration of too many choices. It’s a thing.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Will there be a part 3?

    I’ll try and find the speech given by the University president at my step-daughter’s back in 2012.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Love this second part!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Have I mentioned how much I applaud this man’s wisdom? Always chasing ‘the next best thing’ and suddenly you find yourself at 50 or 60 or…and realize that you were so busy looking down the road that you looked right past all the good, amazing, wonderful things that were happening in your life RIGHT THEN. Started doing a ‘course correction’ a while back in this regard, and it’s been a wonder…

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I’m with Mimi here. Sometimes the choices for our young seem to blur, and at other times there doesn’t seem to be much choice at all. The choice “map” doesn’t exist equally for all, particularly regarding education and job market.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. So what’s the alternative? Stay stuck on a path that doesn’t serve you? Never try something new?
    I understand the pitfalls of trying to Fill the Hole, but in my opinion, that’s what The Hole is for–to motivate, inspire, learn.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. oh my, waiting for part 3. and.. when is it too late to change path? if not at 60? 70? 80?

    Liked by 1 person

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