Some things in life seem to maintain a pattern of consistency no matter how many times one makes that trip around the sun. That pattern gets set when you are a kid and never really seems to go away even as one gets older. Once one hits the first grade, it starts. First grade, summer break, second grade, summer break, next grade, summer break, and so on and so on. Now for myself, that pattern was even more enhanced as I had an extra 10 of those cycles to get to all my degrees beyond the mandatory 12. So you would think after 20 plus years, I would have moved beyond those schoolboy expectations, but it all still seems to fit.
Each fall brings up the new challenge of the next grade. And the summer is kind of that buffer zone between resting and reflecting on the last grade and starting to gear up for the next challenge. Since the cycle of the average congregation follows that same school year cycle, those expectations have been reinforced year after year for me. I don’t know how many times leadership in congregations have been caught in that crunch to complete some program or task before June gives way to summer or just yield to the default, “We’ll just wait until fall.”
Even adults with occupations that are in no way directly tied to this pattern find themselves falling into the same kind of mindset. Unbelievably, it is so engrained that retired people, who have no school aged children, who live in resort areas in the far south where weather in no way impacts activity, will still choose July and August to “vacation.” And even those self same people will engage in the second implied activity for the summer in my title, that search for the sun, our good old friend Sol at the center of our solar system. That sort of “sun worship” that is hard to believe in the South, however, is much easier to understand in New England.
I have always heard the lure of a sunny day calling me to be outside anyway. The ocean, the golf course, the roller coasters: they all scream to me on those warm (even hot) sunny days, “Come out and play!” But after this past winter, the lure sounds like a cry of panic, “Better get out here, cause another ice age is probably on the way!” And sadly, as much as I like to heed the call, there are just too many things that I have to do that require being inside (even writing and reading on electronic devices is almost impossible in direct sunlight). So where does that leave us?
As I pointed out in a recent sermon, all those responsibilities that weigh us down and keep us in our darkened writer’s room of responsibility don’t have to be in charge. Jesus says he will take our burdens and we can carry his. What a great trade because his burden is light! And so maybe for right now, that summer pattern is less of a mystery and more of a gift from God.
I don’t think I’m the only one who feels the summer time pull. And maybe this is the collective time to take a break. What did we accomplish by the end of the spring to end our last school year (check my list of biggies if you want to know about our church life)? How did we do? Did we make the grade? And now that we have accomplished those steps, what do we need to start looking at for this fall? How can we build on what we accomplished and learned? And as all that reflection is going on, maybe it just makes sense to seek out the source of light and life, inspiration and sometimes perspiration, you know the place the whole world gets its energy from.
It’s not in darkened rooms or corridors. Not even the ones just in my mind. It’s the light outside. Outside, the walls and outside myself. And I suspect, really summer is about the fine line between Sol searching and soul searching. The fine line between sun-worship and Son-worship. And whether we have perfect attainment or not, it is still worthwhile, because sometimes the quest is just as fulfilling as the achievement!
Living Under His Grace,