I just dropped my kids off for their first day of first and third grade. What a relief! Backpacks filled with enough school supplies to weigh my 6-year-old down to the ground, they raced to the front door brimming with excitement for new teachers, new ideas, and especially…old friends.
The return to a pace and rhythm after a summer is refreshing. But as a youth pastor who has just completed a summer chock full of mission weeks and VBS, I now see my calendar expanding in front of me all the way through the end of next summer.
As college and grad students receive their syllabi, you can see the map of your next weeks and months unfold before you. Parents getting the school calendars and schedules for sports teams can already see the great distance you’re about to travel.
It’s like a bird’s eye view of the school year ahead of you that quickly turns into a steep and spiraling roller coaster. Before you know it, we’re back and summer, received for a break from the rhythms we’re so happy to enter right now.
Anglican bishop, Jeremy Taylor (1661-1667) wrote Holy Living and Holy Dying as a practical guide for everyday people to live out faith within the rhythm of time. This work was highly influential on John Wesley and the practical holiness of the Methodist movement. Taylor laid out three basic rules for how we live as people in time.
The first is care of our time.
While life may seem short, every moment is a gift that we must account for. Every careless and idle word we must hold before the Judge of our souls. Taylor describes idleness as the “burial of a living man,” the space where sin takes over.
Work does not take our attention off of God, for your employment itself is a calling to serve and glorify God in the way you go about it. Breaks in the day and days off from work are opportunities to reflect on the work that has been done and offer undivided attention to God’s glory. This practice helps us to better organize our time and our intentions as we move forward.
The second rule is purity of intention.
As we order our time, we set our purpose to make every action “religious,” setting our actions and intentions before God to reflect the love of the crucified Christ.
Finally, we practice the presence of God.
If God is always everywhere and in every moment, we are given the blessed opportunity to seek first God’s kingdom, because it is within and among us at all times. Look into the moments you are given and discover that God is truly there, with each person and animal you come across. All of life is a prayer, and practicing this will shape the way you interact with the time you’ve been given.
Whether you’re a student yourself, a parent with kids in school, or long past those days, life is about to come at you fast. Seek first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness as the roller coaster unfolds. May you find blessing on the journey, and may your backpacks be filled to the brim with…well, I want to say something holy sounding, but honestly, I just mean snacks. May your backpacks be filled with really good snacks for the journey.
When not drawing the Wesley Bros cartoon, the Rev. Charlie Baber, a United Methodist deacon, serves as youth minister at University United Methodist Church in Chapel Hill, N.C. His cartoon appears on United Methodist Insight by special arrangement.