Next week, my kids will go back to school.
I will have a third grader, a first grader, and a preschooler. Also coming later in September, a newborn. I’m not sure how my “big kids” got so big so fast (weren’t they just little babies last week?!), and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it — about going back to school in general. This year looks so entirely different than any schooling I’ve ever known. Our family will be participating in distance learning. We’ll be guiding the kids through lessons in our one-room-schoolhouse on the screened porch. If things settle down with COVID, we may be back in the school classroom someday, but for now, all we know is uncertainty.
If I’m really honest, my biggest emotion is fear. In our home learning setting, I fear that I will get everything wrong, that I won’t keep my cool or be able to dig deep for patience, that my kids will struggle and be lonely and fall behind. In a school classroom setting, I fear that when I drop my kids off in the morning, they won’t come home in the afternoon.
Schools aren’t always a safe place anymore. The news of shootings in places we formerly thought of as “safe” haunts me. Movie theaters. Malls. Churches. Concerts. Elementary schools. Classrooms.
Many of us feel unsafe in public spaces today, and possibly for different reasons. Masks and temperature screenings and an invisible virus raging remind us swiftly. Many of these “safe spaces” are still closed, restricted, or off limits. And with the additional stress and fear of COVID-19, my heart continues its push and pull with both the daily curiosity and avoidance of the news.
Part of my emotion is fueled by my own anxiety. Most of it is fueled by actual happenings in the world, in our country, in our state, in our backyards. All of it is fueled by fear.
Fear displaces almost every other emotion. It kicks out joy, and it steamrolls peace. It takes up the space where trust should reside. Fear leaves a bitter taste in what could otherwise be sweet situations and circumstances. Fear swallows me when I give it space. I think I’m giving it an inch, and it unfolds into a mile.
The only way I can even begin to combat fear is to focus in sharply on God and His response to others who have trusted Him in spite of their fear.
Gideon was one such fearful person. Throughout his story in Judges 6, we see God’s patience and care for His fearful servant. God calls Gideon to deliver Israel from the grasp of wayward Midian, and right away Gideon asks God a zillion scared questions. I love the “But what about . . .” excuses he lamely throws out. Gideon asks God for proof. He asks God to choose someone else. He gets all panicky and flail-y in his fear. Then, he gets the job done. And the whole time, the Lord reassures Gideon. He tells Gideon that he is a warrior, that God will be with him, that Gideon will succeed. God doesn’t rush Gideon through his fear; rather, He gives Gideon what he needs to overcome it. At some points in the story (like here, when God reduces Gideons’ troops to mere numbers), God does push Gideon forward, and reluctantly, Gideon trusts and presses on.
There are dozens of stories about fellow fear overcomers throughout the Bible: Jonah, Sarah, Abraham, Esther, Daniel, Moses — people afraid of what or where they were called to be.
Friends, we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses who have gone before us, who have trusted in the One who crushes fear. It bolsters my fearful heart to bring their stories to mind and to tuck into my heart God’s response of patience and love. He doesn’t make them feel silly about or a slave to their fear, but He offers His strength and peace, placing His great hand on their backs and gently pushing them forward.
Which is just what I need.
For me, being a woman of courage looks like believing in and leaning on the God who demolishes fear. It looks like sending my kids to school, wherever that may be. It looks like believing with all my strength that God stands with us and He stands with our kids. It looks like remembering that God goes first, especially into the unknown. God goes before. He’s ready and waiting for our kids.
They do not walk through any doors alone, and neither do we.
The only One who can accompany our kids and provide everything they need is standing by them already. With our love tucked in their hearts and God by their sides, we have done all that we can do to prepare them for school.
We’ll hold their hands while walking into a big brick building, while leading them to the homeschool table, while walking them into their dorm.
We hold their hands, and God will hold them close.
A Prayer for Back-to-School
Lord, may I put my trust in You, knowing You go before us as we begin school. Pave the way, Lord, that we may see You in each and every turn. Help my kids to work hard, to have a mind open and ready for the kind of learning that goes far beyond reading and writing. Keep my love tucked deep into their hearts. Help them to be brave and kind, whether at home or at school, and Lord, help their mom be the same. Amen.Leave a Comment
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Perfect love casts out fear. The only One whose very definition is “love” is our Lord. God is love. Jesus is love. The Holy Spirit is love. Father, friend, and guide are at our disposal to enable us to cast our anxieties upon Him. May we all keep tapping into this source of strength so that we can be fear-overcomers as we move forward. Beautiful prayer!
Anna E. Rendell says
Thanks for being here and offering words of encouragement right back so faithfully, Bev!
Bev, thanks for that reminder Perfect Love Casts Out Fear!
Michele Morin says
Aren’t we just so funny with our, “Lord, be with…” prayers when, all the while, he has promised never to leave us. How much more comforting to pray from a “thank you, Lord, that you are with…”
Anna E. Rendell says
What an interesting thought — one I’ve never had! Love a new perspective!
Beth Williams says
Jesus understands our fears. He knows our insecurities & worries about what ifs. We need to place our trust in the one who is with us always. Focus on God & His love for you-it will cast out any & all fears. Asking God to help alleviate all fears about schooling this year. May He send His perfect peace to all. Asking Him to guide the teachers/parents who will be instructing our young children. May He give you all the wisdom you need to succeed.
Anna E. Rendell says
So glad to be in His understanding arms.
Andree Hidalgo says
Good morning Anna & all,
Thank you for sharing about fears many have about this year’s school year. I am realizing as I have read your devo this am, I may represent another mindset.
As a passionate/compassionate educator of now 25 years, I cannot express how VERY thankful and joyful I am to be back in my classroom with my fourth grade children!! (Already two and a half weeks–and no COVID!) I continue to thank my parents for trusting me with their children. My classroom is clearly different with masks, distancing and lots of cleaning and sanitizing, and many less (now only 20 kiddos in a class) students in each classroom, Yet, what a gift I have been given to be back with my students. I thank God every day for this opportunity. I don’t believe teachers teach or students learn best through the medium of computers ~ specifically elementary children or those with learning differences. I don’t have the fear you have, so I am now realizing I need to be praying prayers of thankfulness for my mindset and love of being with my children (albeit, not the optimal situation). I actually get to sit and enjoy lunch with my kiddos (since cafeteria times are not allowed, due to no students traveling) and it allows me “down time” with my students that I have never really been able to enjoy with the rigor and pace of a “typical” year. These are gifts that I am thankful for this year—I think Christ is helping me to enjoy the positive end of such a year of change and disappointments!
Yet, I’m not at school today, as schools in our Diocese (in south Louisiana) are now closed because of these two looming storms….so opportunity for more, and different, fear!
However, I keep embracing our school’s chosen scriptural “motto” this year:
“I can do ALL thinks through Christ who strengthens me” Phil. 4:13.
Good points..THANKYOU. Praying for your safety thru the storm and of course covid
Anna E. Rendell says
So glad you’ve been able to go back without fear, Andree! That’s a gift, as you are to your kids and their families.
Ann Marie says
Ms. Andree and Ms. Anna,
I am so grateful for your comment and also for this beautiful devotion. I truly needed this today and am so thankful for teachers like you. After praying for guidance on making the right decision, our son started kindergarten yesterday; however I was still struggling with that decision due to almost everyone in my circle deciding on distant learning. Although I may still home school in the future I did not want that decision to be made out of fear. Jesus commanded the wind and waves to be still and by God’s grace and mercy I have been slowly learning how to trust more in these most tempestuous of circumstances. I pray for teachers and parents that the positives will continue to outshine the negatives no matter what decision we make concerning our children going to school or learning from home, knowing and believing completely that our father in heaven loves them and goes before them always.
Becky Keife says
My kids started at home distance learning today. I’m grateful for this prayer! Love you, friend. God is with us!
Anna E. Rendell says
We’ll be starting DL a week from today, friend — we can do this!!
CAROL GONZALEZ says
I just wanted to comment that I hope all goes well when your new baby arrives next month! I have a niece who is supposed to start school again soon and today I learned that her district will be on remote learning until the end of the first report card period. For the safety of students, teachers and all others involved in at school learning I believe that school should not open in person until the beginning of 2021. I know that makes things difficult for some parents who may physically have to go to a job site. I don’t think any of us anticipated when this new decade started that it would be anything like this year has been. Grateful that God has seen me through this year so far.
Anna E. Rendell says
Thank you Carol! It’s been a strange time to be pregnant, that’s for sure. But leaning hard in that God knows the timing.
This is so good, Anna! I’m going to share it with my daughters, who are bravely making decisions that affect my granddaughters. Thank you for being you and braving the coming days. May your family be richly blessed.
Kemi George says
Anna, thank you for your word of encouragement for we mom’s and our children that will soon resume back to school. Greater is He that called us, He will keep us to the very end with our family. Let us be rest assured in God. Bible says thousands will fall on our left and also on our right sides, it will not come near us. We will only see it with our eyes. Let us hold on to God’s faithfulness toward us all. God bless you.