On Not Going Back to School

All my life I was a teacher; and whenever the end of Summer rolled around, and back-to-school ads from Staples began appearing with promises of three-ring notebooks and narrow-ruled pads, I always felt a great gearing-up in my heart. Time to begin, time to do what you love. I’d find myself believing all things, enduring all things, hoping all things.

It wasn’t all excitement, however. A great queasiness would come over me too, a dread of the headlong pace and relentless demands lurking around the Labor Day corner. From long experience I knew how bad it could get, and I’d resolve fervently to hold the line, to keep my inner life intact, to save my soul.

Not everyone looks to Staples ads for ‘a sign of the times.’ Not everyone is headed back to school this time of year.

But everyone has a life that hangs like a brittle bridge between hope and dread, anxiety and desire; and every day of every life is potentially a time of transition to something different, something new.

To step into Fall in faith—into a new school, a new semester, a new job; into life with a new baby, a church with a new minister; into a diagnosis we never thought we’d hear, a decision we never thought we’d have to make; into the phase of life we call ‘retirement,’ or into an unmapped region of the soul—I look to Christ to be my scout. He is (as a Brian Wren hymn says) “alive and goes before us, to show and share what Love can do.”

I am not returning to school this Fall, but the bridge between fear and hope still hangs there for me. Today, as he has every day of my life, no matter the season, Christ calls me to step out onto it—the bridge he crossed over to me once upon a time, the bridge he keeps crossing for us all, back and forth, until he has subdued all our fears and made our joy complete.

Whatever else may be on the other side, he will be there. So I will grab my Number 2 pencils and go.