It may have seemed in recent weeks that I had largely given up on expressing myself. This may have been true. Following the completion of my Student Teaching Portfolio and the following realization that there was nothing demanding my time or energy, I embraced a sort of "bum" lifestyle. When I say "embraced" I mean that I did so fully. Waking, if occurring before lunch was never followed with an exit from bed before 1pm unless in the most dire of caffeine related emergencies. After this, showers were never taken before 4pm, just in time to smell ok for Hazel's return from work. I engaged (or disengaged?) in an abyss of cartoons, sports, and (blech) sitcoms. At some point I did get kind of excited when I saw Spiderman Unlimited featured on Netflix Instant Stream. Early in the first episode, however, excitement was followed by a bellowing "NOOO" as I saw what my 12 year old self had hated so fiercely. In Spiderman Unlimited they gave Spiderman a cape. Yes, yes cry with me, people. Even after so horrifying an episode I lacked even the minimum motivation to pick up a book and read for more than a few pages. I don't mind doing nothing. I can assure you of that, but this was a bit excessive. Yesterday would have been the last day of my bumming, but nooooo, I just had to get the urge to ride the bike down to my favorite spot by the train tracks to enjoy an afternoon of sunshine, Harry Potter, Jeff Tweedy, and train spotting. There I lay on the grass, soaking in sunshine and realizing that as much as part of me would have liked to go on unmotivated and unmoving, my future days will have to be filled with hard work, sunshine, and poetry. Don't worry, I'll even call this one. This is all a bit "hipsterish." Believe me, I both know this and hate this.
Earlier in the day yesterday I rode to the local post office to send some parcels by our hometown dispatch rider. Upon my arrival I chained the bike to a tree beside a van in which an old man was smoking a cigarette. Actually, the way he smoked reminded me of this line from Cormac McCarthy. "They smoked the way poor people sit down to meals. As a religious experience." I went into the post office thinking about this, dropped of my packages to the agent in charge of the Pony Express, and exited (just in case you were wondering about the exact order of my actions). I had forgotten about the old man until, as I unchained the bike, I heard a voice behind me say, "You done the right thing."
"Excuse me?" I wondered what kind of right thing he had seen me do.
"You done the right thing," he repeated, "chaining up that bike. I don't have anymore gas."
This led to a long conversation between us about the benefits of bicycles, the state of the world, and the fact that everything around us seems to be in decay. "What can you do," he asked, "ain't nobody to turn to. People can barely help themselves, much less anybody around them. There's floods and tornadoes, and there's depression, and people can't even get to work anymore. What can you do?" This is when it hit me. Maybe its a part of being 23, or maybe people do it at every age. I've always thought of life as being about to happen. I've always thought, "yeah, life is about to start." What hit me was the realization that life is happening. Present tense. I'm graduating from college now, and what do I know? I'm standing at the edge of unemployment and staring into a black void. I don't show it. Outside I 'm all hope, but inside I'm 100% panic. However, my conversation with that very perceptive fellow reminded me of something else. Jeremiah 41:13 says, "For I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, 'Do not fear, I will help you." And I suppose this says everything.
With graduation in mind, I'd like to reflect a little bit over the last semester. I set off to begin Student Teaching in January of this year with very little idea of what I was getting into. More correctly, I had many ideas of what I was getting into, but none of them was the right idea. I did not realize just how challenging, draining, or incredibly rewarding Student Teaching would be. I have learned many theories about education. In class I learned the lingo and the ins and outs of educational philosophy. What I did not learn was the incredible challenge of living these theories and philosophies on a daily basis.
Enter Student Teaching. What I found my first day walking through the halls of Walkerville Highschool is that adolescence is dark. I had forgotten just how dark it is. I looked through the corridors and where I expected light and hope I saw shadow and apathy. For possibly the first time in my life I began to understand the severe challenge of being the “light of the world” and a “city on the hill” (Matt 5:14). There can be no hiding or blending in when you contain light and live in a dark time. As shocking as this realization was, I honestly believe that this is how God intended it to be. Are we, the children of the light, meant to live together in our own secluded brightness? I think not. We are meant to go into the darkness. For this reason it was written, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119: 105). David, the man after God’s own heart realized that he was not called to stay in the safety of light and likeness. He was called into the darkness to be led by, and dependent on, God’s own light. With that in mind, I suppose my fears of the future should probably fade. It seems possible that staring into a black void is where I'm supposed to be, and maybe what I'm supposed to do is to plunge right in.