Lunches are lined up on the counter, and the smells of coffee and toast waft around the kitchen until they collide in the hallway with bright notes of sharpened pencils, fresh packs of paper, and new shoes, all bundled and packaged neatly at the front door. The kids willingly went to sleep a little earlier last night, so this morning, everyone is downstairs, dressed, and eating breakfast well before it’s time to go.
Two months from now (ok, let’s be honest: two weeks from now) we’ll be back in the usual insanity of forgotten permission slips, missing shoes, and running late for the bus. But the first days of school are different. They hold such promise, such electricity, such a welcome call to action after days and months of summery indulgence!
The palpable clarity of this micro-season inspires new star-charts, fresh calendar pages, and minds popping with goals and ambition. It’s enough to make me want to strap on a backpack and catch the bus, too!
Frankly, we adults could use some ‘first days of school’, don’t you think? Our seasons are no longer broken up by summer break, fall break, snow days, and Christmas. In fact, our seasons seem to go on and on, exponential 24 hour periods from which we seek breaks and comfort, but in which we experience very little of the alacrity and vision that come with first days of school. Endemic in adulthood is sameness, routine, and some version of ‘getting by’.
Oh my goodness, that’s bleak! And though I don’t really believe that my mid-life counterparts are trudging through life, staring vacuously ahead as we prepare power points and do laundry, it does seem that we have difficulty harnessing the energy, anticipation, and joy of young learners. The world is still an oyster, but most days we only have about 15 minutes to grab a pearl. Does scrolling through Twitter count? And why do we scroll through Twitter, anyway? Maybe it’s to read pithy remarks made by our witty friends, but more likely, it’s to squeeze a bit of information, new knowledge or insight into the tiny, tweet-sized moments of our days. We are still hungry for knowledge, we still long to learn.
I’d argue that we are still learning, seeking education, growing and building at a rapid pace, even though our scholarship is rarely noted and is certainly not graded. If we squint our eyes in just the right way, we can see that our days are actually filled with education.
Adult learning almost always starts with our own questions and desires.
How do I grill salmon over charcoal?
How do I help my daydreamy kid to catch the bus on time?
What are those flowers growing in the backyard?
What is actually going on with this Paul Manafort thing?
I really want to learn to throw clay on the wheel.
Show me how to strengthen my core.
Can my friendships get better, or should I just enjoy what I have?
Sex has taken a back seat to life. How can I genuinely move it forward?
I thought I understood faith, but I really don’t. Lord, can you teach me?
We’re asking lots of questions, and we’re learning lots of things! Precisely what we’re learning becomes more clear and concrete as we recognize and value the continuing education that is part of each day. If we were to write journals entitled, “What I Learned Today”, we’d surely begin to see the unique curriculums of our lives emerge.
One of the joys of being imaged after an eternal creator God is that our appetite for understanding is never matched by the scope of what he can teach. He is most high. We cannot plumb the depths. Wherever it is you wander, he can enlarge your investigation and nudge you into deeper wonder. There is nothing in creation or in the gospel narrative that suggests “arrival” or “satiety”, and certainly not stagnation. There is a deep contentment, yes, but it holds hands with desire for more of Him. The stories unleashed by our Alpha and Omega God are those of fecundity, mystery, and unfurling faith.
We are insatiable because He is infinite. He is the abundant and generous “ultimate thing”. When his kingdom is first in our lives, all the good in creation points back to him and leads us further into him. It’s no wonder that our God celebrates inquiry and puzzling, questions and education.
Can we awaken our appetites? Can we get comfortable even with our dissatisfaction? If so, we’ll be well on our way to becoming eager students who embrace the fact of our ignorance, and long to fill pages of notebooks with “What I Learned Today”. Let’s take back the first day of school, grab hold of its lust for knowledge and newness, and weave that rhythm and energy into the long season of adulting.
We are made to be insatiable because He is infinite. Learn to roll with that! Can we awaken our appetites? Let’s take back the first day of school, grab hold of its lust for knowledge and newness, and weave that rhythm and energy into the long season of adulting.
Take back the first day of school. Start with a defined break, so you can arrive refreshed. Sharpen a pencil, clean off your desk, head to the library, take notes, learn to see the teachers all around you – and ask them questions. Enjoy the fact that there aren’t any multiple-choice quizzes here, and note that there are lots of group projects.