September. It’s a season of newness. Crisp morning air and northern winds bring about changing leaves and the accelerating stride of routine… alarm clock buzzers, sharpened pencils, squeaky running shoes on newly buffed hallways, photocopied worksheets, back to school banners and the early morning drone of the yellow school bus engine on it’s route. Today on my errand runs, I encountered a couple different stops and crossings as kiddos travelled from home to school and back again; each student with a spring in their step to be a full grade ahead.
But this September, for me, is different.
Ever since I was 5 and I toted that purple barbie lunchbox to the bus stop, September has involved learning, growth, and structure. Each September to follow has involved me being a small town/big city schoolgirl, then to college, and then an elementary school teacher.
Unlike most of my years to date though, this September involves no strapping on of backpacks and early morning bus rides. There have been no college orientations to attend, classrooms to decorate or lessons to plan.
Instead of making new friends with a lab partner, collecting syllabuses, or setting up get-to-know-you activities for my kids, my fall has consisted of wide open spaces. Spaces that I have found myself filling with activities that are very unlike my traditional school routine, such as quilting with my grandma, training for a 5k (you’ve got to start somewhere), extended hours travelling on foreign highways to visit long lost friends, volunteering, spontaneously baking new recipes that I stumble upon on pinterest, and pulling out dusty books from my bedroom shelf to read over again.
All of which I’ve been doing and enjoying very much, but I have to be honest…
these days, when people ask me what I’ve been up to, a pang of embarrassment loves to creep in. Because in a sea of emerging 30-year olds with successful careers and growing families, I am primitive. Living in my parent’s basement, no cell phone, and a work week consisting of a fraction of the standard 40 hours. I feel like a twig caught between the bulrushes in a river current.
As soon as I start to size myself up with those around me, it isn’t long until I begin to wish this season of stillness away… I start to question what purpose or value I have. I feel guilty that I’m only treading water rather than swimming at breakneck speeds like the rest, and I want anything but this.
What I’ve been learning more and more these days is the fact that comparison truly is the thief of joy. That no matter how much you fight avoidance, it creeps itself into the core of contentment, and even the tiniest dose can be fatal.
The Bible urges us in galatians 5:26 not to become conceited, comparing or envying of one another, but rather to rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 thessalonians 5:16-18).
As it is written, the only way out of comparison is thinking above and beyond it to God’s goodness. In it’s simplest form, gratitude is the cure, and that is what I have been trying to centre myself around lately – to dwell on these days as they were intended to be: a gift.
Someday, my grandma isn’t going to be able to teach me how to quilt. Someday, my morning routine won’t be able to afford a half-hour jog and visits with passerbys along the way. Someday, I won’t be able to take off random weekdays when I can visit and re-kindle old friendships from afar. Someday, cooking daily meals will be mandatory, and I might as well start practicing…
So in this day I have before me, and in however many more I have to come, I want to be fully engaged and thankful. I don’t want to burdened with a heaviness of dismay that my life doesn’t match up perfectly with a colleague from high school. Rather, I want to awaken with joy and possibility for what the Lord has for me here and now.
Most of you reading this probably have much more of a crammed-full life than I do, but as one standing on the sidelines in a season of watching and waiting, these are the words I’d like you to hear. Friends, it is my prayer that you, whatever season you may find yourself in, may be able to view your place and time as a gift, and steward it well for the Kingdom. That you wouldn’t be dismayed that your life doesn’t parallel your next door neighbour or former college roommate (because it probably doesn’t). That the thief of comparison who wants to steal your joy would come up empty-handed in a heart full of gratitude, and that you would be able to embrace the ‘sweet spot’ that the Lord has you in.
May you live a life praise toward the Giver of all good gifts.
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Visit Diana’s blog at www.embracing-hope.blogspot.ca.