"It" is that back-to-school sparkle. Kids, parents, and teachers alike get fired up for a new school year, a change in the weather, and a return to the routine. Excitement builds right along with the pile of fresh school supplies and trendy new wardrobe. Our eyes shine with the possibilities of it all: straight A's are possible! Time for coffee with a friend now that kids are back to school is possible! Changing the world through the lessons taught each day is possible! ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE! Our buoyant spirits soar as we head out that first day.
But then reality happens. Homework, practices, and grades can leave us frazzled. Running the kids to and from school and extra curricular events is suddenly more taxing and time-consuming than we remembered. All is not well between my Tony and that other child who used to be his best friend. And suddenly, the sparkle is gone. We're resigned to another hectic school year holding on for dear life, and the vim, vigor, and zest we first felt has fled.
The spring goes out of our step and the sparkle from our eyes at many times in our lives. Wedded bliss went a little sour with the first taste of a sinful reality. A new job isn't quite the fit we hoped it would be. The words that come out of our mouths when we are tired are naggy and cranky, hurting our loved ones instead of encouraging them. A home improvement project turned out to be more like a home disaster. Our resolve to lose 30 pounds this year went great...for about 2 weeks. We start new projects and new phases in life with a hopefulness that is stolen swiftly from us when sin rears its ugly head. Yes, sin is the culprit. Sin is the thief of our joy, the cause of our sadness, the voice of despair in our lives. Our sinful natures tell us that when the going gets tough and reality hits, the struggle is no longer worth it. We convince ourselves to just get by and to carry on, but our hearts are no longer really in what we do.
The apostle Paul offers us some encouragement. In Hebrews 11, he lists faithful followers of Christ: those who stayed "fired up" and continued in God's way even though faced with all kinds of foes. Paul then goes on to say,
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith." --Hebrews 12:1-2a
Paul effectively turns our attention to Jesus. He's our solution for sin. He's our perfecter. He's the one to keep us going day after day. Jesus is the sparkle in our lives. With him, though the going may get tough, we can stay fired up to live the lives he's called us to live. We keep the sparkle because we know that in Jesus, we are forgiven and restored every day. Is the sparkle gone yet? May the Lord lead us to say, NEVER.