So, a new term begins. With it, the hills of Scotland are replaced with mountains of essay marking; the gentle sunsets with sharp early morning awakenings, the larks singing into the darkness before the dawn.
The darkness before the dawn. I am more than half-way through the marking, words-wise. I am occupied with it, and feeling competent. Alongside that, I can see the sun beginning to rise on the research-led phase of the year. The phase of children’s questions and comments and insights, and of Playmobil and fuzzy felt. I am good at my job. I like my job.
Away from work, I wait for the sun to rise. Ten years ago, I decided it was time I moved on from the NIV Adventure Bible (marketed at 10-14 year olds…) to a more demure copy of the NIV. That copy has accompanied me since. At a recent Bible study group, seeing its original covers in tatters, thread together with a home-made cloth and parcel tape, with pages torn and crumpled, and then, recalling the presence of several fossilized bed bugs caught between the verses – remnants of a night in a London bed-and-breakfast I cannot shake from my memory – I determined that a new one was needed.
A lot has happened in those ten years. When I acquired the last NIV, I was only just beginning to tread the path of mental illness for what it is, rather than being objectionable and naughty behaviour on my part. I was recently baptised, believing that resolving, to my mind, the pardox of faith in a science-driven world, insulated my faith against anything that world could throw at it. In spite of my childhood encounters with church, I was naive beyond measure to the pain and suffering that can ensue when church, relationships, and mental illness collide.
As I thread together a new cover, for new pages, I feel a new hope in them. I have an activity-filled summer to look forward to. Far from the void that research-time can sometimes create, I have lots to do, and lovely people to work with. I have friends who meet me and talk with me, and hear me. At church, I feel so much lighter, now that I no longer have to steel myself against deliberate exclusion. I smile more. Or more genuinely.
There is still much to be done. There is still much I must learn; many ways in which I must change. The leaves on the trees are greening, as I turn the new leaves in my Bible. As I am reminded that God is near. God makes all things new. Even in me.