While I mourn the passing of Woolworths, I certainly do not miss the feeling of catching sight of their ‘Back to School‘ sign while in the middle of my summer holidays. Which child wants to be reminded of school before it’s absolutely necessary? But then, when it does come, with new shoes, bulky uniform and (if you’re lucky) a new pencil case, beginning a new school year is exciting.
Even if children are not moving schools, they move up a year with new teachers, new classrooms and new exercise books. I remember flicking straight to the back of new maths text books to see what kind of difficult-looking calculations we’d be able to do by the time we reached the end. I remember the feeling of starting a new exercise book (or ‘jotter’, as we called them), trying to use best hand-writing and resolving to keep it that way.
Of course as time passed and my jotter filled up, I’d inevitably mess up in some way, but there was no way I’d be getting a new one until that one was completely finished. I remember our teachers looking through books that we claimed were complete, only to be shown several spaces – a few lines here, maybe a half-page there – to fill in before she would relent and hand over a new jotter. I even remember the techniques of leaving larger spaces between words; leaving more lines blank between pieces of work, all out of the desire to begin again in a new jotter.
Perhaps it’s partly because of this experience that we do not trust that God is always happy for us to make a fresh beginning. When we make a mess of things – when we fall into sin – the temptation is to think that we’re stuck with it and we can’t make a fresh start. And yet God is not interested in keeping us stuck in our old jotters after we’ve mucked up. Even if we come to him with a jotter that’s just a bit grubby with a few mistakes but we we’re sorry for those sins, God is happy to forgive us and let us move on. He has an inexhaustible supply of forgiveness, which he is always delighted to bestow on those who seek it with a contrite heart.
And unlike the school’s resource cupboard, at the confessional near you, you’ll always be able to walk away with a new jotter.