It’s mid-August and the back corner of Target smells like Office Depot. The aroma of notebook paper mingles with that of waxy crayons, with just a hint of ink smell making things interesting. But mostly, it’s the paper I smell. Brightly colored lunchboxes are stacked too high, teetering toward the rainbow of vinyl binders. It’s back-to-school shopping time.
Here in the back corner, children jostle and beg, hoping to capture the goodies they are sure will make the year a happy one. Wonder Woman lunchbox? Sure, if that’s what it takes to get you to eat a packed lunch. Several aisles over, in the bedding department, there is a different milieu altogether. Mothers bite their lower lips while checking through the “dorm essentials” list and avoiding the eyes of their daughters lest they both cry.
It’s August and there are so many new beginnings slated for later this month. In our family, where grown children are no longer bound to school calendars and younger children have been homeschooling year-round, August is still (and always has been) that start of something new.
My eldest child has moved his young family from the West Coast to the East, is about to buy his first house, and just learned he and his wife are expecting twins. My second child is off to the big city to begin a brand-new grown-up adventure. The next one in line just called to let me know he no longer needs to be on our cell phone plan. He’s got a new job, a new apartment and a new phone. It’s August. Time for all things new.
It’s August and we’re all a little terrified if we’re honest. I meet the eyes of my friend who is sending her firstborn to college and fear pools in the depth of her usually sparking blue eyes. I take a friend’s baby on my hip while she tells me about her 5-year-old’s kindergarten teacher. Her hand shakes just a little as she pushes her bangs out of her eyes. How can we possibly send them off into the unknown? For their part, the ones who are leaving ask, “Can I do this? Can I really, really do this? Or will I mess it up? Disappoint? Fail?” New beginnings are never easy. Fear smells as strongly as a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils.
Faith speaks words of truth to fear. Wherever you’re going this August, God goes with you. Tell your fear there is no where He can’t and won’t reach. When we’re sure we cannot do the task that lies before us, when we’re afraid our hearts will break or we will fail or we will disappoint, we have to cling to the truth. God knows we’re not enough and He will fill in the gaps. When we step out in faith, we do it knowing that we are not enough. That’s where the faith comes in. If we were everything we needed and wanted, what use would we have for God?
Fear is insidious, paralyzing us if we let it. It doesn’t prevent bad things from happening. It doesn’t make anything more secure. All fear really does is keep us from living the life that God intends for us. That life — the one for which we were created — requires that we do the thing we couldn’t possibly do if not for knowing that Jesus is there, ready and waiting to give us grace and strength sufficient for both the good moments and the ones that feel like utter failures.
If everything always stayed as fresh and pretty as a brand-new notebook, where’s the living? The notebook has value when we take up the pen and bravely write our hearts in its pages. It has worth when the corners begin to separate and the cover gets scuffed. If we tuck it safely away and never make our mark on it, there’s no purpose and no real beauty. Life has purpose when we stop protecting the pretty veneer and use all 64 crayons to play with color on its pages. Life is beautiful — even on the hard days — when we let faith triumph over fear.