Yonder Breaks a New and Glorious Morn
2023 has arrived! The Boxing Day Sales have given over to the Back to School Sales and the new year is off and running. We have a lovely young family across the street from us. Their primary school aged daughter has taken a liking to us. The other day she brought me a letter. She had told me she was changing schools in 2023. There had been a good number of mean kids at her former school although one or two were nice and she treasured them she said. This year she is transferring to a Christian school nearby. She had asked me what religion I was and when I had told her we were Christian she wrote to ask if I could tell her something about the values and some important facts about Christianity.
So what does one say to a primary schoolgirl who wants to know enough to fit in to her new Christian school and as she said, maybe impress her teacher? Probably like you, I remember that need very well. Wanting to fit in is built in to us—we are wired to belong. I changed primary school once, middle school once and attended three different high schools. It is not easy. I still can get stomach contractions remembering the angst of wanting not to stand out too much, but still make a positive impression. Or perhaps walking into an empty classroom all alone, or into a full classroom wondering if there is even an empty chair, and hoping to not be the last one picked for the spelling bee, or not having anyone to sit with at lunch, etc. In primary school, I went from a city school to a country school. Being the new ‘city girl’ was not an easy gig—friendship circles were already made, and I remember after some time in desperation asking the teacher if children weren’t supposed to have friends at this school. Being new, different, or ‘from away’—can all make schoolyard life a really rough trot.
My friend’s questions got me thinking about being called to live a life that at its heart is also different, “from away”—and that can sometimes make our life in the community a little bumpy. That feeling of being unwanted, left out, misunderstood and wanting to fit in can rear up in us pretty easily—not unlike it was in our school days. If we think back to those days, our solution to navigating that social miasma was likely to eventually make a friend or two who were ‘for’ us and ignore the ones we thought were ‘against’ us. Now that we are all grown up, how does our childhood solution stack up?? Since we are now part of Jesus’ movement on earth and he loves everyone—even the mean kids, the neighbourhood gossips, the office climber, or the cheating spouse, our first response of finding someone to be ‘for’ us is still a good response. But we must look further than the school grounds, or our present circumstances. Our circumstances do not define who we are, other people’s attitudes to us do not define who we are. We are children of God and belonging to him is a greater reality than any of life’s hurtful circumstances. We are wired to want to belong—and belong we do! The God of the universe is ‘for’ us in every imaginable way—Jesus has made it possible for our ‘soul to find its worth’ as that famous hymn proclaims. In him, we are of eminent worth, loved more than we know and even delighted in. This is not an alliance of convenience to give each other social capital like our playground alliances may have been. He has given his all—in order to live a perfect human life while being maligned, mistreated, misunderstood, hated and killed by those of us for whom he gave up everything. And, unfathomably, with that sacrifice, he is now not only ready for us to take up life in Him but wanting us to with all his heart. Put succinctly, God was not willing to continue being God without us. His dearest wish is for us to accept the invitation into being transformed to his likeness or as the hymn says-- for our soul to find its worth.
Now all that is probably a bit too much for my 10- year-old friend, but it is as true for her as it is for the mean kids in her old school, or the students she will meet when school starts. It is at its heart a simple story: Jesus loves us. A truth we complicate by letting others or life’s circumstances define us when belonging to God trumps all other options. With this new year may we all remember the great simplicity of a God who loves us so much that he did not want to be God without us—indeed that new and glorious morn! This is the reality worth hanging onto throughout whatever 2023 may bring!