For the Living of These Days—A Word from Carol Harston

The casualties from dinner covered the table but Drew and I still occupied our seats as we slowly enjoyed my first-ever batch of homemade ice cream (delicious!). The boys were busy karate-jumping into a pillow fort in the basement, which provided as much “silence” as is afforded us this season. We shared about our days and picked back up this summer’s ongoing conversation—what is this school year going to look like? How are we going to manage a new season of “more robust” (JCPS’ favorite term) non-traditional learning?

The truth is that we have this conversation every year because every year holds its new challenges. The conversation this year feels both familiar in our questions (What does each child need? How will we manage our parenting and our work?) and unfamiliar (How do we home school without losing our minds?). 

We wait to hear more information. We attempt to plan. We get frustrated over how little we know. And then we decide, again, to wait.

The opening lines in the Letter of James rattles me from the planning abyss: “My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

Is there a way for us to face this new school year with “nothing but joy”? How might enduring this season help us to live whole and complete, satisfied and grateful? Is this even possible????

James reorients joy away from being dependent upon the outcome of the trial we are facing. Joy is born from the promise that God is making us whole in the process. 

What if our being made whole is the greatest outcome that we could receive? Maybe we could even live as we are already whole because our generous God is making it so.

Joy-born-from-faith does not negate the difficulty of the season.

Joy-born-from-faith affirms God, not our optimism.

To suffer patiently with joy, we are going to need some faith beyond our current circumstances. Living with joy will only be possible if we can cling to our convictions. James McClendon writes, “My convictions are the gutsy beliefs that I live out—or in failing to live out, I betray myself.”

Highland: We worship surrounded by the cloud of witnesses, shaping us with the gutsy belief that living our faith is hard work. We worship sheltered by the Revelation Window, shaping us with the gutsy belief that God’s generosity allows us to live our faith with joyful assurance. We know that in the end, God’s love reigns, and all will be well.  

I confess that I am not sure I can make it through this school year without these convictions. I’m not sure I can live with joy without a community who will help believe for me when I cannot believe on my own. I imagine I’m not the only one who will need this community living out gutsy beliefs. No matter the trials we face on the road, we walk it together towards our God who is making us whole all along the way. Thanks be to God.