Backpack packed with brand new pens and pencils and untouched notebooks and folders. Crisp, clean tennis shoes. Favorite outfit carefully selected and laid out. The anxiety riddled questions of “Will my teacher be nice?”, “Who will I sit by at lunch?” and “Will anyone play with me at recess?” And the anticipation and excitement that accompanies new possibilities and fresh starts. Yes, we have all experienced the first day of school.
As students of all ages returned to school, I’ve received a variety of answers to the question, “How was the first day of school?” My favorite response came from my neighbor who eagerly replied, “Junior high is awesome. The teachers treated me like a teenager instead of a little kid. I had a great day!” Love it! However, it seems that no amount of planning or preparing can predict whether it is a glorious beginning or one that sends parents and student alike wishing there was a redo button. Parents anxiously send their children off that first day and know that regardless of how it went, they will send them off for 179 more.
This got me thinking about my relationship with God. Like a parent sending their baby off to kindergarten, does He get anxious about sending me out into the world? He knows how difficult this world can be. Matthew 10:16 says, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” I think most parents have felt like this at times, like they are sending their child out into the world to be devoured by wolves. I know for my father this feeling happened when he dropped me off at college. Until that time, he had the ability to process anything I encountered at school at our dining room table or during a chat before bed in our living room. Now I was away at college and he wasn’t sure what crazy ideas the professors were going to try to put in my head. (Don’t worry Dad, I failed my first college exam because I refused to even learn about evolution. Probably not the most mature way to handle that situation, but seems like it worked out ok.)
Jesus knows we will encounter great trials and difficulties in this world. In John 16:33 He promises that “in this world you will have trouble.” And yet He sends us out anyway. Why? Because just like parents have filled backpacks with new supplies and instill confidence and values in their children’s hearts, God has filled our hearts will His Spirit. We go out into the world accompanied by His strength, power and peace. God knows there will be difficult days, but He knows and holds the future. John 16:33 doesn’t just promise trouble, it also promises peace. Jesus says, “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.” And in John 14:27 Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
So like a kindergarten student eager for her first day of school or a college student anticipating their first night in the dorms, we go out into the world with a mixture of anxiety and excitement. But we can go confidently knowing that God has filled our backpacks with all the supplies we will need. He has equipped us for whatever may come. He redeems our past, holds our present, and knows our future. We do not need to fear because we can trust Him.
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. Matthew 5:13-16