Is it just me, or does it seem like everything’s starting at once? I got back on the campus calendar last year about this time when I became the Chaplain at Avila University, and it was like coming home. Of course, this is the sixth campus I’ve been associated with in my life, so this shouldn’t be a surprise. The only school I was associated with whose routine I had a hard time with was a school that worked on the quarter system. However, even when I wasn’t in school, lots of things begin this time of year beside academics. People travel less starting around now, stores start changing merchandise for fall upcoming (please, not Christmas yet!), annual festivals happen around labor day, the NFL gets going and MLB starts getting very interesting. I think we could call September 1/Labor Day the beginning of the calendar year with as much logic as January 1. After all, until the Middle Ages, March 25 was the start of the New Year for Europe, so it’s not like we’ve done this for all eternity.
As we get so many things going again, it’s important to remember that God makes all things new. The progression of academia from year to year is a good metaphor for the God who gives us many chances: every year we get a new status, new goals, new opportunities, and what happened before matters but isn’t a great limitation as we move forward. There are new people to learn, who may change our lives as we get to know them. People come and people go, the rhythm of life for all of us, and the memories of the place give us an understanding of personal history and how it affects us. We can all work to improve ourselves, get to know ourselves better and find new insights on the mystery of life. Yes, there are things that are unfair: deadlines to meet that pop up out of thin air, people who keep loading you down with tasks when you’re already overwhelmed, the need to “cooperate and graduate”, the ebb and flow of department politics and the injustice of getting caught in the gears of a huge machine we have no control over. However, in the end we live life, we learn and grow in a relatively safe place. When we leave the building (we’re never really able to leave our alma mater, are we?), we re-enter the world as a different person with new skills and insights to share, an empowerment to do things we’ve never done before, and hopefully a chance to take up satisfying work.
In many ways, this is how Church should be. The positive parts, not the negative parts.