First day of school for the 2009-10 year! I came back from my morning run with the dog to find the house filled with laughter, mirth, and the joy of returning to the gilded halls of education…OK, not exactly. Everyone was up and going, dressed and ready. Both kids had good attitudes and were ready to load up like pack-mules with backpacks, musical instruments, lunchbox, and an extra sack of new school supplies. According to our annual tradition, I snapped a couple first day of school pictures. They headed around the house to join other kids from the block standing at the “bus corner”. After a minute, a casually sauntered down to the corner myself and chatted with all the kids. (I was still in “cool down” mode from the run and needed to walk a little…right?) I took a couple more pictures, this time with the whole group. (Yes, I am that dad.) Gave the whole group a mini-lecture about being nice to new students they meet and respecting their new teachers and new bus driver. (Obviously, I’m also that dad.) I casually strolled along the empty lot, across our yard, and back into the house…where I could peek out the blinds at the kids as they continued waiting for the bus. (BINGO! The that dad trifecta!) Just in case you think I’m exaggerating, here’s one of the pictures.
Yeah, I know they have the “Not another picture” look. Plus, “Everyone at the bus stop is looking at us!” I’m THAT dad, so it doesn’t phase me.
Though they don’t know it, kids have an advantage over adults. They spend the year walking along a measurable academic trail. They get promoted into the next level (hopefully). They get new clothes, marking another year of growth. Then, they start again. Adults, we meander along in many regards. We don’t get to stand against the wall while someone marks how much taller we are. If we get new clothes, it’s likely because of a growing waistline – not that we’ve gotten taller. There’s no end of year exam to demonstrate whether we’ve learned enough to go forward. As a result, too many people spin their wheels and dig a ditch instead of chugging on up the mountain to the next level. However, Jesus says he’s gonna do some pruning, and that should be a reminder to keep growing. It’s part of the prayer I prayed with my kids this morning – that they would grow and learn new things this year…even something new today. Let’s see some evidence that you deserve to be in 6th & 7th grade!
Yes, they had a good day. We celebrate the first day of school with supper out as a family. It helps take the edge off the reality that we’re back to a life of homework, early bedtimes, team tryouts, and band practices. The bus was 20 minutes late picking them up and dropped them off nearly 30 minutes late after school. (We hear the bus driver got lost during the route. I’m sure a bus load of “helpful” 5th-8th graders helps a lot with that.) Lockers worked. Teachers were nice. No one messed up and did something on the first day that scars them for the rest of the year. (Other than having a father stalk the bus stop, take pictures and lecture all the other kids.)
But, what about me and you?
If it was time to begin a new semester of the Christian life, would you pass? Is there evidence of growth in your life or are you just coasting along? Are you glad there and no exams at this stage of your journey with God? The measure of our spiritual growth doesn’t have as much to do with our effort as it does with our connection to Christ. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, NIV) Are you connected to The Vine or do you expect to produce fruit while living disconnected from the Vine? Apart from your connection to Christ, you don’t produce anything of value. We wonder why we sometimes feel we’re in seasons of pruning. It’s frequently the Master Gardener trimming back the dying shoots of our life. He’s hoping we’ll let the dead branches of our life go and use our energy and attention focused on the areas that produce sweet fruit. And it’s not for our benefit. Jesus reminds us, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (v. 8)
I know teachers who brag about having a star pupil. It makes them feel good to see someone under their tutelage excel. It validates them as a teacher. There are teachers who come home drained because they feel like they’re beating their head against a wall with the class they have this year. God doesn’t need our growth to validate Him, but it does bring Him glory to see one of His own blossom and display beautiful fruit. Maybe it’s time to pluck away the fruit of the last season, trim back the branches that are overgrown and begin a new season of growth.
I spent some time today praying for all the students, teachers, school faculty and administrators I know (elementary, middle school, Jr. High, High School, college and seminary). So, if I know you, and you’re somehow involved in the education process – I likely prayed for you today. I hope your year goes well. Just be glad I didn’t show up with my camera to embarrass you.
See you in the field…on the vine.