Back to School

It’s that time of year again – the time of year where school supplies is still fresh: folders crisp and crayolas are still pointy. Students vow to keep up with their studies while balancing friendships and set new goals for this brand new school year. Moms claim that this will be the year that homework gets in on time and all after school snacks will be healthy, tasty, and organic. Educators have high hopes to meet learning objectives, complete endless to-do lists on time, while engaging in meaningful interactions with their students.

Come October (or maybe earlier), crayons are now stubby, students are pulling all-nighters, super-mom is exhausted, and educators are praying they make it until fall break. We look at our neighbors, peers, colleagues, and friends who seem to still be going strong and feel defeated.

And so it goes, each fall.

Preparation for the back to school rush has been going strong since July for this university professional, and I am already tired. I’ve done this back-to-school pattern numerous times as a student and a number of times as a professional and it’s always the same. Our society and culture doesn’t set us up well in scheduling rest and valuing a slower pace. I am not advocating for laziness, but I am learning it is time to take a step back.

It seems that the past few weeks I have engaged in numerous conversations about exhaustion, busy schedules, non-stop pace, the importance of good sleep, and the value of Sabbath. We continue to run ourselves ragged cramming more and more things…and possibly all good things into our days. In my downtime, I often am multi-tasking in an effort to be productive and relax at the same time…(that usually doesn’t happen) and by the time I sit down or rest my head on my pillow…my body may have stopped, but my mind is still sprinting. Constant activity rules our lives.

We live in a culture of fear.

Fear of not being good enough. Fear of failing. Fear of letting people down (friends, family, supervisors…maybe even strangers). Fear of not doing enough. Fear of not measuring up. Fear of not being the perfect [mom, student, child, friend]. Fear of missing out …admit it, we all have a little FOMO now and again.

I believe these fears motivate our behavior. We shut down and actively avoid confronting our fears or we make ourselves crazy, scurrying around in a constant state of doing in an effort to prevent our fears from coming true. Neither option is beneficial.

What is the worst thing that could happen if we said “no” to more items on our to-do list and “yes” to intentional rest of mind and body? I have been challenged to consider the feasibility of giving, helping, and doing when I am worn-out and ragged, the result doesn’t pan out well.

What good is another coffee date if I am going to be too distracted to be present or another week of customized, organic bento box school lunch and PTA commitments if I am going to be too tired or busy to savor little moments with kids, or another work project if I am going to be too overloaded to offer creativity and honest commitment?

I need to give God my first fruits and be obedient to the things to which he has called ME. When fears motivated from comparison, pride, and insecurity surface, remember that God is calling you to be in relationship with him and to pursue his will for you with your best. Not your neighbor’s best, your roommate’s best, your friend’s best, your sibling’s best, and not even all those people on facebook, instagram or twitter’s best…your best, your calling. The pursuit of anything else is futile.

When we slow down, we make space to hear from God and learn of his will and have a divine guideline to help determine what items on our to-do list fulfill our purpose. What’s even more, when we slow down and make space to hear from the Lord, he provides sustenance and strength to pursue his daily calling for us and that carries us through the inevitable chaos in life.