It’s “back to school” season once again, which usually means lots of school supply shopping and kids planning out their first day outfits. Teachers decorate their rooms while college students learn their way around a new campus.
But, like most things, this year is different. Back to school season is filled with more anxiety or concern. Parents are grappling with decisions about online or in-person schooling and teachers have probably gone through countless lesson plans as decisions keep shifting.
My heart has ached for parents, teachers, and kids alike as all of them face strange new realities this fall. Getting to know new people is a bit more challenging while also wearing a mask. And having to navigate learning and connections via technology or Zoom calls isn’t a walk in the park either.
This particular beginning of the new school year is a strange one, for sure. For that matter, starting anything new in the middle of a pandemic is a bit overwhelming. Shifting jobs, beginning retirement, jumping into a new sports team, moving to a different neighborhood, meeting new people… all of it is much more challenging right now.
I was feeling a bit like it’s a strange time for any of us to experience a new beginning, when a colleague of mine reminded me of a curious thought: When have God’s people ever had a perfect time for a new beginning?
If you take a quick scan of scripture, it becomes pretty clear. God has often called people to new beginnings in the midst of the strangest of times.
I have a feeling Sarah probably had a few choice words for Abraham when she learned that they were picking up and leaving everyone & everything they knew, just because some odd voice had told them to.
I can only imagine that Noah wasn’t exactly sitting around looking for a new hobby when God showed up and instructed him to build a gigantic floating zoo. Or the prophet Jonah was so frustrated by God’s timing of asking him to go speak to the people of Nineveh, that he ended up in the belly of a fish instead. Talk about strange.
The gospels tell us that Jesus just appeared one day to the disciples, asked them to drop everything they were doing, and follow him. Can you picture what an odd and abrupt career change that was? I could also imagine that Mary Magdalene thought the middle of the Passover celebration was a pretty terrible time to have to bury your dearest friend. But grief never comes at a convenient moment.
The point is this: strange, difficult, challenging beginnings are nothing new to the people of God. And we now follow in the footsteps of some pretty incredible people before us. Yes, the discomfort and uneasiness are a bit overwhelming at times. But hopefully we can live with some comfort that great things often start with quite strange beginnings.