Tomorrow marks the end of March Break, without a doubt the longest March Break in history. Back to school is normally an exciting time, but like so much in 2020, this back to school is very different. Teachers and school staff have been working at a crazy pace - for some, all summer - to get ready for tomorrow. How do you create and maintain a safe learning environment during a pandemic? Tomorrow we will see the creativity of the education staff hit a new high as all the ideas and theories carefully nurtured for the last several months are put to the test. Some ideas are going to prove to be genius. Others will be relegated to the same fate as the dodo bird. For my part, kudos to all those whose passion is education. Whether administrative staff, a classroom teacher, or the maintenance team, thank you for the stress, hard work, and tears you have endured. Regardless of how all this plays out this week, this month, this year - it has already been a success. Our educational teams have demonstrated unprecedented levels of creativity, flexibility, and above all, love for their students and the learning process.
Of course, all this comes at a cost. I’m not talking about tax dollars or tuition. Tomorrow’s normal nervous energy and excitement is heavily seasoned with anxiety. “What if . . .” It has been The Question since all this started. It is impossible to have imagined every scenario, so the anxiety rises. It rises because our educators and their teams are passionate people who want to get it right the first time. That’s what makes them fantastic. It also makes them anxious.
One of the most popular bylines of this pandemic is “self-care.” “Look after yourself,” we are told. We all agree - but what does that look like from a faith perspective? We hear a lot about the need for physical exercise, eating well, maintaining a routine, and good sleep habits. But few are talking about our heart of faith. Anxiety is real and it overwhelms. And it is not sinful. It simply means we are human. Like our physical self, our heart/immaterial self also needs intentional care. Several years ago, a Christian psychologist wrote a book, Telling Yourself The Truth. To summarize, Jesus taught us that truth can bring freedom, but our inner worlds - a key part of our spiritual self - usually repeat the lies we hear. “I’m not good enough.” “I can’t do that.” “How can God possibly forgive me for that?” “Well, God may forgive me, but now I have to put up with His second best.” On and on the lies go. We all tell ourselves such lies everyday. Our response is to displace the lies with truth. I call this “Cognitive Behaviour Theology.”
As His image-bearers, God has created us as both material (physical) and immaterial (spirit/soul) beings. Tending to the material side of things is a bit easier because my tummy grumbles when I’m hungry. But my spirit/soul has a very quiet voice. Quiet, but persistent. It will tell me those lies unless I am intentional to intercept them. So for all of us, but especially those amongst us who are carrying the weight of providing a healthy learning environment for our kids, here are some Cognitive Behaviour Theology truths that we can repeat to ourselves, over and over again, to make tomorrow a day of celebration of God’s goodness.
There is a King. It seems like the world has gone crazy, but that is just an illusion. While very few seem to acknowledge and worship the one true King, it does not deny the reality there is a king. That is the point of the book of Judges. Israel thought life would be better if only they had a king. They forgot the truth: There is a King. He is the Creator. He calls the stars by name and holds all things in the palm of His hand. He alone is God; There Is No Other. It is the most profound of truths: God’s got this.
There are limitations. God did not create superheroes. He created image-bearers - you and me. And with that He placed limitations on us. Jesus took time to rest and sleep. Paul tried three times to get to Rome to preach and each time the Holy Spirit prevented him. David wanted to build the temple but had to give the task to his son. Isaiah was told, “You are going to preach phenomenal sermons - and no one will listen.” God places limitations on us. Most of the time they are “normal” like the need to eat or sleep. Frequently they are beyond our understanding (like Joseph). Sometimes they come in the form of what we perceive to be “mistakes,” yet God is working a greater purpose. I love the story of John 9. When confronted by the blind man, the disciples assumed there was a sin issue involved. Jesus clarified their thinking - “Neither this man nor his parents sinned. But he was born this way so the works of God may be displayed through him.” Limitations offer the chance for God to display HIS glory!
We walk by faith, not by sight. Things are not always as they seem. The kingdom of God is counterintuitive. We live upside-down values: the first will be last, the greatest will be the least. What we perceive to be loss is frequently redeemed by God to be something beneficial. Faith means we embrace the truth that God is active and engaged (our Father even sees the sparrow that falls to the ground). Faith means we know God’s purposes cannot be thwarted despite all appearances to the contrary. Faith takes the long view, not the immediate one. Faith embraces the goodness of God (Psa. 119:65-67). Faith reminds us that God is in heaven, we are on earth; let our words be few (Eccl. 5:2). Faith dispels anxiety because we are assured things are not always as they seem.
So, first day back. Bathroom breaks take longer than planned. Kids don’t keep 2 metres apart. Two boys swap masks along with their lunch sandwiches. And one of the staff members shows up wearing a tin-foil hat convinced that this whole thing is being caused by 5G technology. There will be glitches. No worries - God’s got this.
It is going to be a great first day back because:
There is a King;
There are limitations;
We walk by faith, not by sight.
Have a great day at school!