“You are what you behold, and they’re beholding you,” Andrew Kern reminds us.
I’m looking straight ahead at a few months of summer, and I know there’s an opportunity for me here. The temptation, of course, is to fall flat on my back in exhaustion, grateful that another school year has ended, glad for the reprieve before a new one begins.
But it doesn’t work that way. My students are my own children, and they are beholding me on a camping trip in July as much as they are on a school day in September. So what will I gaze at, contemplate, behold?
Summer is not for the absence of work, but for work of a different order- not leisure in the sense of recreation, but leisure in the sense of re-creation. It’s for contemplation, reflection, delighting in, for the slow drinking in of great ideas and meaningful connections.
If they’re beholding me, then I’d best be intentional about what I’m beholding myself. I’m setting out this summer to do just that.
Summer is a lovely time to park myself on the deck in the early morning with my Bible, a cup of coffee, and the intent to behold the maker of the Universe. I’ll forget getting through a certain number of pages or books of the Bible before the summer ends. I’ll just read. I’ll stop a lot; wait. Let it seep in and water my parched soul. Let Him say what He wants to say, without getting distracted by my own goals of “getting through.” I’ll Behold Him.
There are a million ways to behold beauty all year long, but God makes it especially easy for us to do in the summer. My summer bucket list includes packing up my kids to head out for a hike, working the garden, swimming in a lake, skipping stones, gazing at stars, and adding to my bird list. I’ll seek out beauty all season long: bright cheery lemons in a cold glass of water, painted toddler toes running through long grass, early morning light filtering through the bedroom window. It’s everywhere-I just need to look at it.
I am ridiculously behind on recovering my own intellect. I did not receive a great books education myself, so when I look at at a typical high school reading list for a classical curriculum, I begin to feel a little frantic. If I’m trying to have engaging conversations with my kids, I think, I need to read these Classics. All of them. Soon.
And so what usually happens is I’ll compile a frightening list of books to read- Homer, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, and on it goes. The enormity of the list pretty much ensures that I won’t even start. There are too many! I’m so intimidated by the task of getting to all the classics that I am discouraged to read even one.
This summer I’ll choose one. I may not have any high-level conversations about it, may not dig out the deepest intentions of the author or the most profound themes or ideas. But sometimes we just need to read a book to gaze at it. Summer seems a fitting time.
We are told to become as little children, after all, so perhaps I could start by beholding them. We’ll pull out Monopoly, find the coolest shady spot in the backyard to get lost in a book together, run through the sprinkler, let sticky popsicles run down our faces. I’ll make it a priority to laugh with them, listen to them, watch them, just be with them, without any motives of improving their intellects or increasing their academic prowess.
And then maybe- just maybe- I’ll become what I behold. A true, good, beautiful teacher, with the heart of a child and a mind seeking to understand, to encounter ideas, and to grow.
Seems like it would be a good use of summer, doesn’t it?