In the week before Christmas, my wife and I received an unexpected—and entirely unwelcome—surprise. In short order, the child care arrangements for our children abruptly fell apart and we were left scrambling to figure out how to care for our children from the beginning of January.
In the end, we made new arrangements that I think are actually quite promising. But these new arrangements mean that many of the habits of commuting and dropping off and picking up that I came to take for granted last semester will look quite different in this coming semester. Among other things, that means my attendance at Morning and Evening Prayer will follow a different schedule than last semester and that I’ll need to schedule meetings at different times.
During our September retreat, we devoted a significant amount of time to the question of habits and practices, thinking about ways in which these can orient us toward God and ways in which they can move us away. We talked about how much of our habitual actions can be unconscious. If we can take time to establish habits that are fruitful and life-giving, we can create patterns in our life that direct us towards God. At the end of the retreat, we took time to reflect on one practice in our own life that pointed us towards God and that we wanted to continue, one that distracted us, and one commitment we wanted to make for the coming year. I have had those notecards tacked on my bulletin board since September and looking at them now I can say that in some ways I have succeeded and in other ways I haven’t.
My child care conundrum has forced a reappraisal of some of my most basic habits. Perhaps that is no bad thing. A new semester is an opportunity to begin afresh, to take stock of the habits and practices one has fallen into in semesters past and ask how or if these need to change. Sometimes that change is forced upon us, as it was for me. Other times, we are given the grace to acknowledge the need for change and seek new patterns for our life.
As we set out on what will seem at times like a mad rush through another semester and to the conclusion of another year, I invite you to take time to think about the semester ahead: What habits and practices will be life-giving for you? In what ways have the commitments from the September retreat been helpful to you? In what ways do you still have room to grow into these commitments?
This message was written by College Principal Jesse Zink for this week’s Wingèd Ox, a weekly news digest distributed to the college community.