When I was in Jr. High (today it is often called Middle School), I was really bugged by a quirk of school-bus scheduling. My school schedule called for an 8:00 a.m. class, which was before our bus arrived at school. That wasn’t a problem, since my dad got to work at about 7:45 and his workplace was just a couple of blocks from the school. The end of the day was the part of the schedule I despised. Our bus drove two routes each morning and each afternoon. The bus driver lived a ways out of town, near the end of one of the routes. He kept the bus at his house, so the most natural thing to do was to pick up the route nearest his home first in the morning and drop us off last in the afternoon.
As I said, the morning part wasn’t a problem. It was getting out of school at 2:45 in the afternoon and not getting home until 4:30 that just seemed not right. One of my friends lived on the OTHER route, the one that got picked up last and taken home first. His school day, from pick-up to drop-off was about an hour shorter than mine.
I found a solution to my dilemma…I started walking the 2 ½ miles home from school. I took shortcuts through town, across fields an over a drainage ditch, often making the journey in just over a half-hour. My mom would often be in town running errands or picking up younger siblings, so I would arrive home to a quiet house and a pile of left-over home cooking from that day’s lunch. On special days, I could smell the sweetness of fresh donuts piled high on a platter on the kitchen counter. The pile would be much smaller by the time everyone else got home!
After my “snack”, I frequently headed outside with a book, and began the climb about 20 or 25 feet up into a large elm tree, that helped form the property line next to the road which bordered us on two sides. At some point, I had used some scrap lumber to build me a seat between two large forks in those limbs. On breezy days, it could get a little shaky up there, so I found something to help strap me in. I would read and sway in the breeze until the school bus drove by. I was always fascinated by my view, looking at the top of the bus far below me, realizing that the bus driver and passengers had no idea that I was watching them from above.
The scene I just described took place over a half-century ago. I remember it with fondness because then, as now, some of my best replenishment comes when I am alone. If you, however, pulled back the camera to display a wider view of my life, you would see that, even back then I was surrounded by people more often than not. Quiet, alone times may replenish me, but they don’t define what life is about.
The kingdom of God happens as people discover the grace, the love, the hope, the healing and the reconciliation power which God wants to bring to us. We may fill our minds with books and stretch our imagination with the arts; we may train our bodies with athletic competition and grow our soul with prayer. However, we will never…not ever…reach spiritual maturity outside the realm of healthy, encouraging, challenging relationships.
As much as I have cherished my moments in the elm trees of life, I know that being like Jesus requires well-developed, genuine friendships. Let’s talk about it this weekend when we continue our “Growing Up” series at Stone Ridge Church. Hope you can join us!