My kids will be in school until May 29th. I’m not sure, but something tells me that all meaningful academic activity will probably end today if it hasn’t ended already. My calendar shows big blocks of time set aside next week for the fourth grade swim party and the fifth grade bowling party. So there’s still one more week of something that we’ll continue to call “school.” I’m not complaining.
While the school year is grinding to a slow and celebratory halt, my son’s journey through elementary school came to an official end on Thursday morning. Marnie and I attended the fifth grade honors chapel and witnessed a ceremonial marking of the transition from the lower school to the middle school.
My own journey through school didn’t allow me to experience a “graduation” until the end of high school. These days multiple “graduations” have cropped up on the educational landscape. Our children are praised as they graduate from kindergarten. We do the same thing again when they leave the elementary (or lower) school. I’m almost positive the same kind of thing will happen at the end of middle school. By the time the child finishes 12th grade it’s same song third or fourth verse.
But why shouldn’t we mark these transitions in the lives of children? To do so in their childhood is to acknowledge something that will be true of their lives long after their formal education ends. And we acknowledge what is true of our own lives right now: Life is a series of endings and beginnings; we are continually concluding one thing and launching into another. Something is wrapped up while something new is opened.
Today we’re wrapping up this series of daily reflections on the life and times of Joseph. What an ending this story has. Joseph knows his brothers but conceals his identity from them. He harasses them one moment and then weeps privately the next. Eventually he comes clean and everything crescendos in the tears and the embracing and the forgiving and finally in Jacob’s journey to re-unite with the son he had long thought dead.
But all of this happens in the Bible’s first book. This really isn’t an ending at all. In fact, what we’re seeing is seed of a new story, a story of God’s people flourishing in Egypt and then enslaved and afflicted. We have here the prelude to Moses and Joshua, the backdrop to the Exodus and the quest for a homeland, the shadowy outline of David, and even Jesus. Jesus, guarded from another cruel ruler by parents who flee back to Egypt.
Joseph’s story is only a part of much larger story – a story about God. All the events and twists and turns of the plot line are really about God and what God is doing in the world. Every story in the Bible belongs to that larger story. A story that continues today.
All of your beginnings and endings are a part of that story, just as Joseph’s was. Kids go from lower school to middle school, from newly wed to new parent, from associate to partner, from driven to retired. Somewhere along the way, by God’s grace, we realize that the story we’ve been living really wasn’t our story at all. .
Maybe, having kept company with Joseph for a few weeks, you’re starting to see what he saw. Joseph came to a point in his life in which he was able to affirm “God sent me ahead of you.” That’s actually the point of his entire story: God. It’s the point of your story as well.
Are you able to envision your life as a part of God’s larger story?
O God, work in my life just as you did in Joseph’s. I want my life to be caught up in the great drama of your work in this world. Teach me to trust you with every joy and every heartache, confident in the knowledge that there’s more to my own life than me. Amen.