Back to School

The LORD: “Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you (v.1) . . . “Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’” Deut. 4:1,6


It’s “Back to school” time.  Each year we would get new clothes and school supplies.  Pictures were taken, and we would be on our way.  For me school was a challenge.  I never knew how to sit still and I got bored easily.  My grade one teacher let me stand by the window to do my work so I could twirl and watch my skirt fly out like a parachute while completing my workbook pages.  I didn’t mind doing the questions and problems, but I hated coloring.  It seemed like a colossal waste of time.

I was accelerated in grade one, meaning that I completed two grades in one and ended up one year younger than my peers.  It was a source of frustration for the rest of my school days.  Although I was one of the tallest girls in my class, I was also one of the youngest, and my maturity didn’t always mesh with my peers.

Elaine015Today they would say I had attention deficit disorder; back then I was just “busy”.  It meant that I was full of guilt for not being a “good girl” and sitting still and being quiet.  I rushed through my work, carelessly coloring outside the lines, cutting jagged lines, and scribbling incomplete answers.  Always in a hurry, I used spit on my finger to erase mistakes.  It was quicker than pulling out an eraser, and while it smudged the answers, I could read it just fine and Elaine026sometimes my teachers let me get away with sloppy work.

When I started grade seven everything changed.  Suddenly the “process” (reading, writing, arithmetic) took a back seat to “content” and I was fascinated.  Once we started learning about history, science, language and algebra, I was engaged and started to excel.  It became evident, once I learned how to organize my notes, that I could make connections and produce quality work.  By the time I got into high school, I was at the top of the honor roll and I started to receive academic awards.

If only my social life had been as exemplary.  When I was eight, my father started school at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota in order to specialize in Orthopedics.  He did a locum in Schenectady, NY and ended up in Modesto, California for several years before returning to Canada.  That meant that we had multiple changes in location.  As a result, I went to nine schools in twelve years.  Just as I started to make friends, we’d move and I’d have to start all over again.

After a while, I quit trying to fit in and focused on school.  That left me detached and lonely.  I needed a social group, so I got involved in the local church youth group.  We generally attended smaller churches with well established cliques, making it hard to break in.  The exception was the Church of God in Modesto, California.  There I encountered a vibrant community of youth committed to Christ, and I encountered a living faith.  It has sustained me throughout my life.

My beautiful picture
Wheaton College 1971-73

The change of focus from school to church carried through into university.  I attended a Christian college in Wheaton, Illinois and when I returned to Canada, I looked for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Bible study groups on campus.  Without that support, my education would have been two-dimensional and incomplete.

102It was through IVCF at the University of Calgary that I met Paul, my lifelong friend.  Our experiences of growing up were very different.  He was stable, I was mobile.  He was country, I was city.  He was shy, I was talkative.  Yet, through our common love of Jesus, we were able to learn from each other and form a strong bond.

While our schooling was very different, Christ was the head of both our homes growing up, and that made our values and aspirations very similar.

Colossians 2:2-3 – “I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is Christ himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

1 Corinthians 2:16 – “we have the mind of Christ.”

Everyone is back in school, and even if you graduated long ago, there are lessons from our “rabbi”, Jesus, that will never end as we learn to sit at his feet and internalize the lessons he has for us each day.

A highly educated person can become somewhat arrogant—and may be intimidating to be around.  But it is quite different to be a person who is highly educated in the school of Christ. We may think of such a person as one defined by the fruit of the Spirit.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Gal 5)

Back to school.



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Paul was a preacher and teacher until he retired in 2015. He continues to write and listen to what God is saying to him in the ordinary and extraordinary things of life. Elaine was a public school teacher and administrator until she retired in 2018. She is using her retirement to reflect on God's work in her life and to share insights with her family and friends.

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