My little sister turned 21 this week, providing the customary opportunity for the extended family to come and gather and share in the celebrations. It was a great chance to catch up with all the news and to touch base with people who are close to us and yet, due to the busyness of life, we do not get to see very often. The compulsory questions about how you are doing provided a wonderful opportunity to take stock and reflect on what has happened and is happening in our lives.
Rarely do we have such a chance as to stop and reflect. The New Year provides an excellent opportunity for this, but when the treadmill of work and life begins again, we can be swept away, losing sight of the resolutions we have made and more importantly, the blessings we have received. We need these special moments, moments that are out of our ordinary routine to force us to do this; force us to listen to the lives of others and appreciate what we have in our lives at that present moment.
Another such moment I have had this week is when a former student found me on Facebook. It took a while to recall them and the class they were in, but the more I dwelt on it, the more I remembered about the class, the successes and challenges they had learning and the memories, good and bad, that were had with them. When you are teaching, you have a privileged position of being that child’s Maths teacher for the year. No-one can change that and for the four hours you spend with that child each week, you are their source of progress for that subject. They look to you to help them succeed and the moments that are shared together during that time are fixed forever.
However, when the year ends, you pass that child onto another teacher to form a new relationship. Inevitably their loyalty will switch and yours has to as well. It is safe to say some students cannot wait for this to happen and I hesitate to say some teachers may feel the same. Yet invariably a bond is made between the student and the teacher which makes this ending difficult. John the Baptist had a similar situation when he proclaimed that Jesus was the Lamb of God. He knew his followers would leave to follow Jesus and his time as their teacher would be over. His heart would have been heavy when he testified to Jesus’ nature, but consoled by the knowledge he had completed his task.
As a parent, this passing on can be joyous and painful as well. Seeing your children grow up from your little cherubs to cheeky toddlers to playful youngsters and beyond is both filled with joy at their mastering of new skills, but also sadness that what they were before they will never be again. I can only guess that the hardest moment would be when someone calls them to leave you behind, like Zebedee being left in his boat by his sons James and John when they left to follow Jesus’ call.
It is these inevitable and healthy transitions that make the appreciation of the particular moment in time we live in essential. We need to find time in the frantic nature of life to stop and count our blessings before things change. We need to stop and see the light that lives in our midst, whether that is due to a celebration of a special birthday or a friend request from an old student.
Jesus went to live in Capernaum by the sea to begin his preaching and for those moments, the light dwelt in their darkness. Without stopping to look, we may miss that very light coming to dwell in our lives.