I love spring break. I need spring break. I’m not sure I would survive without spring break. All of these are true statements. Spring break is an oasis in the desert of second semester. I always come into this week dry and shriveled. The memories feature on Facebook proves this; as I’ve read my posts from previous years over the last few weeks, exhaustion and being at the end-of-my-rope are common themes. Third quarter is usually the quarter in which a teacher can get the most accomplished. This is great, but it comes at a cost. Teaching lessons, grading papers, and working with students takes a lot of energy, thought, creativity, and passion. It’s hard to find a way to replace these important soul nutrients in February and early March. Add to that the fact that we had our re-accreditation visit this year. I was finished.
It’s been a week now and I’m beginning to re-hydrate. The weather has been mostly spectacular. I’ve spent some awesome time with family, taken a few naps and gone for some lovely runs in new places. Easter worship was blessed; my hope was renewed. The laundry is caught up and there are fresh brownies cooling in the kitchen. I’ve also had time to read, think, and reflect. This is essential for my teaching. I can’t be creative and passionate without time to think. I just can’t.
A few weeks ago I went to our local used book store with a gift certificate I received from a student at Christmas. (Brilliant gift, by the way!) I was browsing the autobiography/memoir section when I found two books by Madeleine L’Engle. I love her. These books are really journals, a recording of her thoughts and feelings during the illnesses and deaths of her mother and her husband. I get that. Writing helped her cope. Her coping, her reflections, her managing to survive helps me. We’re connected, we humans, whether we like it or not.
This afternoon I was reading a professional development book for work. I thought I’d better get going on that since it’s Thursday already…sigh…. Anyway, it’s not so bad. The author was talking about worldview–what it is and how it is formed in us and in our students and I was reminded of a passage I marked and copied out from one of the L’Engle books I’ve been reading. Her words hit me hard because they helped me to recognize a major flaw in my own worldview, or I suppose I should say my former worldview because, thankfully, though I might occasionally still fall into this trap, I think I’ve mostly learned my lesson. She was talking about false guilt–a major struggle during most of my life. She writes, “…the one reason I don’t feel guilty is that I no longer feel I have to be perfect. I am not in charge of the universe, whereas a humanist has to be…. It is a trap we fall into on occasion, but it is particularly open to the intelligent atheist. There is no God, and if there is he’s not arranging things very well; therefore, I must be in charge. If I don’t succeed, if I’m not perfect, I carry the weight of the whole universe on my shoulders.” (The Summer of the Great-Grandmother, pg. 51)
I am a Christian, but I have often lived like a humanist atheist. I have lived as though the universe depended on me, as if God wasn’t doing a good enough job. It’s terrible. It’s a life of self-imposed slavery instead of a life of God-provided freedom. How does a believer get so confused? I think it has to do with worldview, with culture, with being an American. Americans are supposed to be independent, to be self-made instead of made-by-birth, and that’s the opposite of Christianity. Christians are dependent, God-made by new birth. I can do nothing, but I can do all things through Christ.
Even as I contemplated all of this, considered how freeing it is to know that I am not perfect and that God does not expect me to be so, my mind created a mental image. I pictured myself falling physically and felt relieved at the knowledge that there is no guilt in that. I am forgiven, made perfect, all I have to do is pick myself up, brush myself off, and begin again…. But then my lovely little image exploded like a cartoon bubble because I realized that the error was still there. The truth is that I can’t even pick myself up. Even that is God’s job. He picks me up, he brushes me off, he dries my tears, and then he patiently holds my hand while I toddle on. The more accustomed I become to letting God have control, the better we walk together. Someday, I hope, we will run. What freedom that will be!
Maybe my need of this break, my exhaustion, my utter dehydration is another indication that I haven’t learned this lesson as well as I supposed. He is the living water. Waiting on the Lord promises to renew my strength and help me run without growing weary. The best is yet to come.