Summers for teachers are a blessed gift. They’re a time to regain a little sanity before starting the craziness all over a couple months later. And for married teachers, it’s extra time to spend with their spouses and families. But for single teachers, the open, quiet days of summer can present torture if not managed well.
I did not manage my first couple summers as a teacher well, and the quiet was almost enough to drive me crazy. Since then, I’ve learned to be more intentional about planning relationship-building time so that the days don’t feel quite as lonely. And this is a blessing, not just to me, but also to those I’m building relationships with.
As I come to the end of my “summer kick-off” vacation on the East Coast, my mind is already buzzing with goals for this summer, and I know that I will in no way be bored in the upcoming months. But I also want to be conscious of my own mindset going into the summer to cultivate peace and contentment for each day.
When I was sitting in an airport on my way back East, I experienced that kind of peace and contentment just from sitting and watching people and thinking about all the invisible ways we’re connected to each other without realizing it. And as I did, I remembered four words from college theater classes – “The Four Brothers” – ease, form, beauty, and a sense of the whole. And I knew that’s what I was experiencing in that moment.
We would practice embracing those four words through various exercises in our theater classes because this is how we wanted our performances to be every time we stepped onstage. And if you practice being conscious of those terms while doing something like tossing a ball to people in a circle, they will come naturally to you when the curtain rises.
And because theater always gives us skills to transfer to the rest of life, those four words still echo in my mind to this day. As I contemplated them recently, I realized that this is what I want to embrace for the whole summer – so here’s my prayer to do just that.
Father, this summer, may I embrace my days with ease. Not in the sense of making every day easy with little toil or effort, but in the sense of not forcing my own will and expectations on the days. Help me to move through my days with a trust in you to accomplish your will through me. May I find joy in being open to what is in front of me, rather than getting frustrated at what isn’t happening. Help me not to compare my life to others and be dissatisfied that it doesn’t look like theirs. Instead, may I with ease accept the assignment you’ve currently given me.
Lord, at the same time, I pray for commitment to the form of my days. Help me to create form by keeping to daily disciplines and routines, knowing that these are a gift from you. You bring peace through these routines because you are an orderly God who has created the form of all of creation. While I need to be ready for interruptions or delays, may I embrace new disciplines with my days rather than being lazy and wasting the gift of time you’ve given me.
God, open my eyes this summer to your beauty that is surrounding me in every small way. Let me cling first and foremost to the beauty of who you are and the relationship you desire to have with me. And then I pray that you would cultivate your beauty in me so that others might see you as well. As I do ordinary tasks, as I share life with others, and as I enter rhythms of rest and productivity, help me to see the beauty in all of it. Let me see every moment as holy and thus worship you more. Help me not to crave the beauty in imagined scenarios, but to catch my breath in awe at the unexpected beauty of real moments.
And finally, Lord, I pray for a deeper sense of the whole this summer. May I be more aware of how I’m part of your whole story in just one small way. Help me to see your whole story, your whole humanity, and your whole purpose for my life. Lift my eyes from a narrow view of the path in front of me and bring them up to see the mountains and forests of your plans surrounding me. May I see the ways that I’m connected to others on purpose – that our stories connect for a reason, and that I am put here to bring honor and glory to you through those stories.
This is my prayer. I surrender my will to you and pray that you would teach me humble obedience. Help me to be quick to repent of the sin that so easily entangles, quick to rely on your grace instead of my foolish attempts, and quick to see what you’re doing in my life.
To you alone be the glory.
In Christ’s name I pray,
Picture: Rappahannock River, Fredericksburg, Virginia