Back to School Benediction
As you go to school, I pray that this becomes a lifelong love for you, the love of learning. And that as you learn, you wouldn’t just love learning for the sake of knowledge, or even for the beautiful responsibility of honoring the brain and the talents you’ve been given, but that you would see beyond all of that. You see, “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” (Psalm 24:1), which means that everything you learn about is God’s. When you study in school, whether you realize it or not, you are learning about God, too. You are learning about His character and His nature and creativity and sense of order, etc. So I pray you grow to love learning not only because learning is fun and good, but also for the sake of what all that you learn can tell you about God if only you let it, if only you have the eyes to see the God who created all there is to learn.
As you go to school, I pray that you will not only learn and love knowledge, but that you would also grow to learn about and love your fellow man, too. School will force you into close, daily proximity with people you would not likely meet nor have anything in common with otherwise, and you will have the joy of seeing them not only through your own eyes, but through the eyes of others. You may not have a natural affinity for the person sitting next to you, in fact, you might only be able to see the irritating things in them. But, you may find, as I have so often, that someone else who sees something beautiful in them can awaken your own eyes to what they see. In this way, your classmates will become your teachers, and you theirs. Just as you may teach each other where to find the good and the beautiful in one another, you may also teach other where to find annoyance and even hate, so I caution you. First off, guard carefully your mind and your ears, choosing to see, hear, admit only the good about another. And secondly, I urge you to be aware of your power of influence and use it well. If you will choose to speak only what is “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy” about your classmates, you will be a superhero among them, spreading love and helping them to see those things in themselves and in each other as well.
And finally, as you go to school, I urge you to consider that what you learn there will affect you the rest of your life. I’m not talking about academics here. I have heard many people say, through the years, why do I need to know chemistry, or algebra, or, fill-in-the-blank-subject, when I get out of school? What good will this do me in life? Well, frankly, they are often right. Yes, God has surprised me and I actually did need to know chemistry after I got out (so I learned it, again, because I’d forgotten it all), and math, and all sorts of subjects and facts I didn’t think I’d ever use again—so you never really know. But that’s not the point. It doesn’t matter, really, if you ever really use that subject again in your life because you WILL use what you learn in that class, especially in the classes you least enjoy and least see the point of.
You are learning critical life lessons that will serve you well in that class you don’t like and from that teacher you don’t like. In fact, they will probably be your best teachers. You are learning how to do what is distasteful to you—your life will be filled with those moments, changing diapers, doing laundry, going to work (because you’ll likely have to work a job you don’t love at some point), and so forth. You are learning how to submit to authority, even when you don’t see the point of their request. This will serve you well, especially when it comes to submitting to God, because neither He nor His requests will always make sense to you either. You are learning discipline, putting aside things you’d rather be doing to do what you ought to be doing. You are learning to prioritize and decide what is most important to you because life will be filled with times when you have to sacrifice one thing for another because you simply can’t do it all. So when the school play and a big test are both demanding your attention and you have to choose which is most important, that’s a life-skill. So is learning how to clean up the mess and recover from those sticky decisions. Even good ones often require some cleaning up afterwards. You are learning that hard work pays off, except for when it doesn’t—and sometimes it doesn’t. That’s OK, because even more importantly, you’re learning that it’s far better to know you did your best and be able to look yourself in the mirror with a clean conscience than it is to “succeed”. Because grades, like most outward status of success, don’t tell the whole story.
Along those lines, I hope you learn to value learning itself more than grades. If you love learning, the grades will (most likely) take care of themselves—but remember, they are there to motivate you to learn; they aren’t the point, learning is. If, however, you only focus on making good grades, then you may have those without having learned a thing. This is the academic version of what Jesus was saying when he said to “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then all these things will be added unto you.” When you seek the right things first, the rest follows. This is one of the most beautiful lessons you can learn in life. The world tries to motivate us with the “rest” in so many ways. We need to learn to see the root pursuit that is worthy of our time and attention. When we seek that one thing, everything else falls into place.
There are so many things school will teach you that have nothing to do with the academics you will study, good things for your life. But if you learn that last one, if you can learn to seek God first, even while you’re “stressed out” in school... you won’t be stressed out because you’ll have learned to trust Him. You will find that God truly can add the “rest” unto you. You will have the peace, joy, love, patience, etc. that are the fruit of His Spirit. You will be well-prepared for the rest of your life, no matter what your GPA. When school becomes a trial to you, as it surely will from time to time, let me remind you of what James writes, “Consider it pure joy...whenever you face trails of any kind because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And endurance must finish its work so that you may become mature and complete, not lacking in anything.” I know we tend to think that school is about academics, but it’s so much more. School is a tool that will, if you let it, produce endurance in you and develop you into a mature and complete person, which is far better than a simply smart one.