It’s that season already! Parents and children shop for colorful backpacks and lunchboxes. Teens eagerly review their class schedules to see if favorite teachers are listed. College students return to dorms towing hampers, bedding, and stackable crates.
I headed back to school too! At least I tried. That meant selecting a course, purchasing textbooks, and figuring out how to access the online course. And then God pulled back the reins.
Here’s the backdrop of my story. A “Return to Learn” brochure from the local university had arrived in my junk mail. It got my attention, offering courses from art history and geology to economics and nutrition. It seemed like a good idea to take a class in a subject totally different from my previous studies.
After all, learning is valuable at all stages of life. It makes for a more interesting person and provides a boost of confidence. It can be very satisfying to work hard on a challenging project, especially if it involves new learning.
Doctors agree. Today, more than ever before, medical experts emphasize the need to use the brain in new ways for long-term cognitive health. To be sure, I want to preserve every healthy brain cell that God gave me……. and that’s why I decided to enroll in a graduate class at the local university.
The late summer session equated to a full semester of work compacted into five weeks, which translated into extensive reading and online discussion, two lengthy research papers, and a twenty-minute virtual presentation.
The reading and papers fit into the realm of possibility, if I committed hours each day to the work, but the presentation? I didn’t even know for sure what the directions meant, and it was worth sixty percent of the course grade!
After sleeping a few hours and consulting Google “how to” sources, I decided the presentation could be a power point with voiceover. Not wanting to give up, I persisted and made a brief sample, just to try the steps listed in the video on U-Tube. It worked!
Of course, it would take days to gather the information and create the slides. What about graphics, color, and music in the background? My trial run was bare bones. The younger students would surely know how to create snazzy presentations. Could I learn how to do this on my own in a few days?
More questions and doubts arose. Would there be time for all this effort?
Was this the right learning project? It occurred to me that maybe God was nudging me to reconsider this particular brain challenge, but I kept trying to figure it out.
Precious days passed. The professor became ill and didn’t respond to my emails, a needed form was missing in the registrar’s office; one textbook didn’t arrive on time. It seemed like I was headed for disaster.
Then it became clear. I didn’t have to do this. All the obstacles finally made sense—this was not what God wanted me to do. It might have been my idea, not His. What a relief it was to realize this. I quickly composed a polite note and excused myself from the course.
Isn’t it interesting to discover that our determination and unrelenting efforts to make things work may prevent us from riding the waves with God, letting Him be in control. We think we’ve made a wise choice and want to persist in overcoming all barriers. We’re proud that we’ve cultivated a good work ethic and never-give-up attitude. But sometimes God has other things in mind.
Maybe what I really needed to “return to learn” was:
- pay attention to God’s nudges
- let go of willfulness and determination when the path becomes obstructed
- rejoice in a loving Father who knows what’s best and makes it all good, no matter how hard we try to stay on our own path
Carefree days followed ……. spent with friends and family, wonderful times that simply would not have been possible with the demands and deadlines of that course. I was relieved and grateful. It was okay to change directions and give up my plan.
I think my brain is still healthy, and if God calls on me one day to create a power point with voice-over, I may know how to do it. The important lesson, however, is to listen and let go.
After years as a “stay-at-home” mom, Cynthia enjoyed a fulfilling second career as a high school language teacher and curriculum developer. Recently, she took a leap of faith and left the classroom in order to devote more time to family—aging parents, adult children, and lively young grandchildren. Her home is in West Chester, PA, where she plays classical music, bakes bread, and tends a “secret garden.” A novice blogger, she welcomes you to her posts at firstname.lastname@example.org.