“We Don’t Have Much Time”

“Let love be genuine.” — Romans 12:9

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been on a bit of an adventure. On May 9th, I walked across a stage in Virginia and received my college diploma. Nine days later, I watched my sister walk across a stage in St. Louis, Missouri, and receive her (smaller) high school diploma. Needless to say, we’ve both heard a lot of advice in the past several days, including four student speeches and two commencement addresses.

All this advice has been wonderful, and I was deeply touched by the scholar who addressed my graduating class, urging us toward wonder and away from constant suspicion. However, the man who addressed my sister’s graduating class astounded me completely. Jim Butz is the less famous Butz brother. Even so, he is an accomplished actor and much-loved teacher, director, and mentor. Of all the teachers who have invested in the Westminster Christian Academy class of 2015, Mr. Butz is the one those students requested as their commencement speaker. He loves his students, and they know it.

But there are dozens of teachers like Mr. Butz — men and women who devote countless unpaid hours caring for, praying about, and worrying over their students. What makes Mr. Butz so special? What makes him unique among commencement speakers this year?

Mr. Butz’s father is dying. The class of 2015 was warned on the morning of graduation that their beloved teacher might not be there. Another teacher was selected at the last minute to read Mr. Butz’s remarks should he be unable to attend the ceremony. But at 7 PM on May 18th, Mr. Butz walked into the gym with his fellow educators. He listened to the valedictorian and salutatorian speeches. He watched his students seek out their mothers to honor those women with a rose for each. Then the headmaster introduced him, noting that the elder Mr. Butz was at that time nearing death.

And Mr. Butz stepped up to the microphone and announced, “We don’t have much time.” He warned his students that, on average, we have fifty-some years of waking life (though he did recommend they check his math). He urged us all to spend that time loving. He cried. He choked back tears. He balled his fist and regained composure. He spoke to the class of 2015 with all the love he had for them. And I hope not one of them forgets that love. Jim Butz sacrificed some of his final moments with his father — whom he obviously loves deeply — to assure his students of his love and to encourage them to love just as strongly. Mr. Butz has lost time, words, and would-be memories with his father so he could share his love for his students. And I imagine — if the elder Mr. Butz is anything like the man his son has become — that the father thinks his son chose well.

That is what makes Mr. Butz so special. He knew where his love was most needed, and he gave up his right (and even another duty) to be elsewhere. He stood before a group of graduates and their guests, and in so doing, he demonstrated the very lifestyle which he was urging them to undertake.

WCA class of 2015, if you ever doubt that you are loved, remember your commencement. Mr. Butz loves you more deeply than you know. And his love is genuine. May we all learn to love so much.